Organisations depend on their managers. They keep the business running (management) and set the direction of travel in their area (leadership). The context they maintain determines performance (culture).
Trusted by the CEO and board
People ask her opinion when they have to make big decisions, like she's the chief sensemaking officer
Knows how to get things done
Bureaucracy and admin don't get in his way, he's the known as the head of "getting it sorted"
Able to make improvements
When it comes to increasing performance, she's the best at leading collaboration and development
Beyond their official job, every manager is an expert in one or more aspect of the workings of the organisation. At the very least they understand its tensions and how to navigate its weaknesses.
That makes them uniquely placed to sense the best next step in the organisation's development. Consultants may support this process and experts describe what happened elsewhere. But the only people with the ability, knowledge and authority to lead change are its managers.
Predictable and Agile Delivery by developing leadership at every level Combining agile methods with manager's wisdom
Keeping it simple - WHY WHAT HOW
> Motivate people to do what's right
Simon Sinek is right when he says "start with WHY." If people understand why combining change and run matters, or why defining milestones as testable outcomes is crucial, they can get on with it.
Without understanding WHY, people must await instructions. Then, do whatever they are told because they have no means of validating the ask.
This approach does not scale for knowledge work.
> Connect action with strategy
Once everyone knows WHY, they need to understand WHAT outcomes they will deliver. You can test understanding by inviting people to explain back to you.
Checking for proper understanding exposes assumptions early.
Outcomes are shared between the sponsors of the work, the owners of the problem, and the members of the team that will design and deliver the solution. They aren't job tickets, thrown over the fence to IT.
> Scale by self-organisation
Whilst management fully owns the WHY and the WHAT, knowledge workers must become responsible and accountable for HOW the work is done.
Successful managers are "leader coaches", not problem-solvers and controllers.
They have learned HOW to trust their teams. Often, by collaborating widely, learning, and supporting people's drive to improve.
"I wasn't comfortable asking for feedback at first and assumed colleagues would feel the same. Now that I'm checking assumptions, clarifying understanding, and confirming outcomes, I'm getting positive feedback, even without asking."
“Russ has really helped me focus and remain focused on my future goals. He facilitates and guides me in a way that emphasises my ownership of my goals and direction of travel. Before starting these sessions, I had plenty of ideas but was terrible at executing them. Having someone to discuss things with and get guidance from is hugely beneficial to me.”
WF - CPO
“It’s actually quite straightforward. You’ve helped us see the wood for the trees, focussed on what is important and helped to bring simplicity and clarity.
You have helped us a great deal and we have both developed hugely under your tutelage and the business has too.“
WM & JL - Co-founders
“Russ has a coaching style which is sympathetic and supportive and he was able to push me into potentially sensitive areas of self-reflection but ensuring my consent.
The sessions have been very valuable in providing me with insights into my management approach and helped me develop more a confident leadership approach.”
Management's greatest challenge in the digital age
Agility is management's greatest challenge yet
Managers are responsible for both incremental and radical change. Incremental change is normal – targets increase quarterly, we meet our annual objectives, and increase efficiency by reducing waste. But radical change is risky and most sensible people avoid taking unnecessary risks.
Which is why managers are crucial. They help organisations do the things that individual employees wouldn't. Such as making radical changes.
Agile Transformation is Radical
There's nothing more radical than transforming a well-established and profitable organisation.
We're not just talking about adopting new ways of working, innovating with technology, and exploring new markets. Those are just skills managers must master so they can become more agile. We're talking about deliberately walking away from comfortable certainty into an abyss of unknown outcomes.
Jumping into the unknown tends to activate people's sense of danger and self-preservation. Their credibility, reputation, and careers are on the line. The more senior the manager, the more they have to lose, and the greater the perceived risk.
Research shows that people cannot learn unless they feel psychologically safe. The risk of losing their job by comprimising the company's assets generates a fear response. Increased risk makes people hold-on more tightly to what they know. It increases inertia, prevents learning, and makes change impossible.
The answer is for managers to set the pace of agile transformation by leading the transformation. It is the in every manager's best interest to invest in their own learning, to design experiments themselves, to role-model transparency and being wrong, develop their own capabilities, and encourage leadership amongst their direct reports.
The key to de-risking agile transofmation is by developing leadership at every level.
Leadership at Every Level
Developing leadership at every level is what makes managing the digital age different.
Machine model management prevailed from the industrial revolution up until about the year 2000, when internet and communications technologies changed everything. Back then, you didn't want too many leaders, because leaders take people in new directions. Firms that had invested big in the machinery of mass-production didnt want leaders. They put supervisors in to operate and optimise processes. Managers oversaw the supervisors and looked after the assets. Executives managed the managers, and a CEO managed the interace between them, the board, and the shareholders.
Not so in the digital age, where many employees are knowledge workers. As long as they understand the outcomes they are working towards, people decide how to do their work themselves. Even the lowest ranking knowledge worker makes decisions without asking their boss if it's okay. Unless they are following a predefined process, we can say knowledge workers manage their own work. And, if they set their own priorities for the day, we can say they are leading their work too.
If workers are now managers and self-leaders, then the manager's job is to create the conditions for their success. They do this by:
- ensuring priorities are clear (so teams and individuals know their objectives) - leading collaboration between stakeholders (because work is complex and full of dependencies) - developing competence (including their own)
Only managers can create these conditions for success. They are the experts of their organisations and they hold the authority for its governance.
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