- what is the capability of your teams? (what is it constantly delivering)
- how do you make sure the capability is constantly improving?
- what work is hard to do, and what are you doing to fix that?
One of the great illusions brought to us by management literature is that managers manages people. They are leaders, hiring talented people doing the work. When the talented people run into trouble, they are expected to gather momentum down from their toes and overcome it. If they don’t, the manager will step in and take charge.
- Jeff didn’t deliver his feature in time, (so there must be something wrong with Jeff!)
- Roger is complaining about the bad specifications he is getting (so there must be something wrong with Roger since Jeff isn’t)
- The manager is busy with other things than solving team impediments (nobody above him ever asks about impediments solved, but obviously there must be something wrong with this manager)
You get the idea. The trouble with this is that every problem automatically is transferred into a people problem. So "What about skill then?" Well of course skill makes a big difference. But isn’t it a bit unfair to turn all problems (process issues and lack of training issues alike..) into people problems? And which of these where actually created by the very system that the manager is running?
So, let’s choose a better way of managing:
- managers who understand how work is done, by observing the work
- managers who knows the capability of their teams
- managers who asks questions, when capability drops
- managers who challenges assumptions, forcing us to understand the problem before solving it
- managers doing this, every day
This is what I call a Lean manager, a person who improves the capability of his organization. A person who goes and sees real work. And we more of this, and less people problems.