Monthly Archives: August 2017

What is the Goal of Management?

Earlier, I talked a couple of times about some possible deconvolutions and separations of a number of traditional management roles.

Today, I want to talk about the goal of management. What are the principles underlying how we support and direct our teams? What are we trying to accomplish?

We want to look at some of the various goals we might have as managers, and then see how those may map onto different roles that might be allocated to different team members.

I like to say that I have two goals as a manager: 1) Support each of the people on my team to develop themselves as best they can, and 2) Achieve results for the larger organization that we are part of.

Sometimes these goals are in conflict, but I put them in this order deliberately, to show[1] that helping your people is often the best way to help your organization, that in general, these goals are in alignment.

But I digress. What are the goals of a team?

1) Support and develop each of the team members
– Help each of the people figure out how they want to develop
– Help each of the people develop themselves
– Help them remove internal[2] obstacles in the way of their development
– Help them remove external[2] obstacles in the way of their development
– Give feedback and suggestions for improvement
– Have difficult conversations with more pointed suggestions for improvement
2) Achieve results for the larger organization
– Provide guidance (estimates, progress reports, and risk levels) to the rest of the organization[3]
– Estimate the amount of time/effort[4] required for a task
– Perform tasks (may include investigations to better define tasks)
– Perform prioritization of project work
– Perform prioritization of triage tasks/incoming requests
– Firefighting of emergencies
– Define & subdivide tasks
– Work with other teams on projects/tasks
– Unblock and remove obstacles for other team members

Next time, we’ll see how these tasks are divided, in traditional management, and in typical Scrum/Agile. We’ll also start looking at how you can use this more granular list of management roles to start training up your management bench. Stay tuned!

[1] At least through repeated assertion…

[2]You can interpret the concept of ‘internal’ and ‘external’ obstacles in a number of different ways. In this context, I’m thinking about ‘internal’ as ‘inside your own head’, but ‘internal’ could just as easily mean ‘in your team’, or ‘in your organization’. This duality could easily be split into multiple roles. I separate out ‘inside your head’ because I see ‘Inner Game‘ issues as requiring a different approach than talking to people other than the one with the obstacle.

[3]I had originally written this as ‘up the hierarchy’, but this information is also useful to other parts of any organization, and I’m trying to generalize this to less hierarchical organizations.

[4]Perhaps wall-clock time vs. % of a two-week sprint, for example.

Weather Only A Druid Could Love II

He walked down the street, skipping between the puddles and weaving between the umbrellas. It was one of those days where he wasn’t exactly sure where he wanted to go for lunch, but he was pretty sure it was going to be one of the local takeout places. He felt himself gravitating towards the little hole-in-the-wall ‘BBQ’ place, where he had oddly never seen a barbecue, nor any food that was barbecued. Walking in, he ordered his usual, enjoying the fact that they now left the onions off his salad without asking, and even remembered his dressing choices (balsamic).

Stepping outside, he walked through the geometric tree garden. That probably wasn’t its name, but he didn’t know how to refer to it. There were little (to him) trees inside half-toroidal bollards. Normally, when he walked this way, there would be people sitting on the bollards, sometimes two people conversing, sometimes people taking a brief moment of solitude and recharge from whatever emotional labour their ‘normal’ daily life entailed.

Today, there were a few stalwarts, sitting huddled on the bollards, each of them inside their own bubble. It reminded of what a woman had told him about her experience living in London, that ‘each person was their own country.’

Some of them were smoking cigarettes, most were on their phones, hunched over the screens to keep them dry, hoarding the few minutes they had to themselves all day, resentful of the rain for robbing of some of the little joy they ever felt.

He gave this whole montage a wide berth. It felt rude to intrude, and once again, he was still enjoying his walk too much to want to, even by trying to share a smile or nod.

The rain continued its gentle mist, he continued his walk. When he was growing up, he had always seen himself as a wind-lover, based on how much he loved the summer breezes and winds, especially when they whispered through the trees, but it seems that his love was actually for the outdoors, whatever its weather might bring. He was looking forward to what it might bring next, whatever that may be, as long as he was outside.

Weather Only a Druid Could Love

It was raining. It almost felt like it had always been raining. And yet, here he was, outside. Today, it was almost a gentle mist, the most delicate of rains. The kind where you wanted to turn your face up to the sky.

He did so, looking up at the space between the buildings, always such an interesting shade of blue-gray, in the mist.

He looked back down at the ground in front of him, partially to avoid puddles, partially to deke around an umbrella. The umbrella wielder had a determined expression, as if they were willing the raindrops to move out of the way with the force of their mind.

He knew that this was foolishness, but let the person go past without comment. It was too perfect a day to be outside, to want to spoil with such conflict.

Unfortunately, such conflict was what he oft experienced when he suggested going for a walk in the rain. For some reason, he seemed to enjoy walks in the rain more than most people. The exact reason was unclear. It might have been his naturally sunny disposition, or perhaps that he felt more of a connection to nature than most[1].

But he knew that a large part of it was something far more quotidian. In the tradition of ‘Fortune favours the bold‘, or ‘Haley drinks a potion of bluff'[2], or ‘use thermal underwear to be able to walk barefoot through snow'[3], he knew that the best way to enjoy the rain was to be fully prepared.

The rain coat was essential, but the extra warm sweater and long johns were perhaps not as obvious. Perhaps based on research that baby ducks stay warm until they get wet[5], perhaps based on long years of experience with rain, cold weather, and low blood circulation in the legs.

Either way, he was enjoying the day, dodging around puddles, people watching as was his wont, perhaps lunch would be had at some point. Only time would tell.

[1]Some referred to him as ‘feral’, because of his frequent needs to be outside, he more enjoyed the term ‘kinda like a druid’.

[2]From the webcomic Order of the Stick, from the episode where Haley (who has already maxed out her ‘bluff’ skill) drinks a magic potion which greatly enhances her bluff skill to apparently epic[4] levels.

[3]Terry Pratchett’s ‘Thief of Time’, pp176-177. ‘Sweeper’, a magical time-monk, who is able to withstand walking barefoot/sandalfoot through snow uses thermal underwear to great effect to help him use less magic.

[4]Yes, in this context, ‘epic’ has a very specific meaning, and it does seem to apply.

[5]From a conference paper I saw presented in I think 2003. Basically, the conclusion was that ‘baby ducks can survive in the cold, as long as they don’t get wet’. Apparently, the natural insulation makes all the difference, as long as the air pockets in the down are still there.