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But They Like It When I Tell Them What To Do!

Mike Cottmeyer Chief Executive Officer
Reading: But They Like It When I Tell Them What To Do!

This is a re-post from my article on Agile Software Development. Re-posted here for my Leading Agile readers.

Okay… I am unexpectedly out on a client site this week and I have not had time to think, let alone write, let alone write anything interesting or worth reading. So, in lieu of a writing a meaty blog post, I am going to tell you guys a little story.

Earlier today I was talking with a traditional project manager trying to get her head around what it will mean to make the switch to agile. Keep in mind, I have been on this client’s site the past two days. We have been breaking down traditional notions of requirements, engineering practices, quality assurance, organizational structure, and team structure. We have discussed self-organization, empowerment, and individual accountability.

As we were wrapping up this afternoon I could see that this lady was struggling. This transition was really going to impact her job and force her to reevaluate her management style and approach to project leadership. We talked briefly again about the idea of empowerment and self-organization and how she was going to have to learn to let go.

She turned to me and said… but Mike… they like it when I tell them what to do.

It was such a profoundly honest comment that told me volumes about her and the state of the team. This project manager derived a certain sense of self-worth from being the person that told everyone what to do. The team liked being told what to do because they were fundamentally absolved from any responsibility for the outcome. They were perfectly content to let the project manager do their thinking for them.

It was a great reminder to stay focused on what often runs underneath the arguments against agile. It is not always rational or logical. More often than not, people find themselves in situations of their own making. They are comfortable just where they are and many have been very successful under the current way of doing things. And you know what? Change can be scary… and it is always uncertain.

A year or so ago I was going through a rough time and came across a great passage from Machiavelli’s “The Prince”. This passage has often provided comfort when I’ve grown weary of leading change:

“And let it be noted that there is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful of success, than to set up as the leader in the introduction of changes. For he who innovates will be have for his enemies all those who are well off under that existing order of things, an only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new?”

Original Post at Artem’s Agile Software Development.

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Comment (1)

  1. Jason

    Great post. This is a very tough mental state to get away from when switching to Agile methodologies. It’s very difficult for teams and especially disciplined developers with traditional backgrounds to make the transition.


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