Imagine a small software development team (say, 5 members). Having done your homework as an Agile manager and closely following Jurgen Appello's suggestion of "the more you empower your team, the better", you one day find your team having progressed so far that it doesn't seem to need you any more at all.

From my point of view, Jurgen's proposal: "Level 7: Delegate: You leave it entirely up to the team to deal with the matter, while you go out and have a good time." ... of going home might not be feasible, since it could have a bad impact on general team motivation when the PM just stays away.

Of course, you clearly don't want to look over everybody's shoulder all the time, micro-management a bad thing and so on. You also don't want to take away the tasks that your team members chose themselves already, right? Spending the day on farmville doesn't seem a smart move either ... so I wonder, what else to do? Should you stay with the project directly, or better move on instead?

  • Note that in the example, level 7 isn't put forth as always better or a last step in enlightenment. It's simply one end of a scale between dictating and hands off. Even though delegation is given as the goal, both extremes are portrayed a bit unfavorably, but the article says in general that "You can vary these levels of authority, depending on the topic." – mattdm Sep 21 '11 at 22:44
up vote 12 down vote accepted

I strongly believe in being with a team. Let's consider a simple example: your team faces a critical issue. People are trying to track down some technical glitch but they struggle to catch it. Anyway, they decide to stay late. Still nothing. Another day the situation is the same: they decide to stay late. Now, where a manager should be?

The manager won't help them to deal with a technical issue whatsoever as his tech skills are totally rusted. He can freely come home as the team has really no use of him. Um... except this vague feeling of sharing everyone's pain. And another one of knowing that this kind of important guy is at hand so whenever they need to have a phone call made to be allowed to restart server in production environment or wake up someone from client's team or order a pizza he's there waiting to help in any possible way.

Now, the same rule works even when there's no emergency whatsoever. The best you can do is to make their lives easier. If you have no other idea just learn how to be a better manager, however if you come to the point when there's really nothing to fix in terms of team organization, unblocking tasks, getting top management support, finding time for people to unwind themselves, creating occasions for knowledge exchange, encouraging them them to learn, etc. then well, I genuinely want to work with your team and in your organization.

In short: manager's job is to make the team's life easier and I don't know any organization where there's nothing else to do in this area. If you don't have quick answers just spend some time looking for them, asking right questions and with the right attitude. You'll quickly learn there's load of work to be done which can make the team's life at least a bit better. And that's exactly your task as a manager.

  • Thank you Pawel, that's really a great answer. In particular, the last paragraph should be burned into every manager's head. – bonifaz Sep 21 '11 at 18:41

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