“We don’t ask you to think, we already pay people for that” : since the emergence of Taylorism and of the specialized worker executing one specific task, working methods never stopped to evolve. Nowadays, in the era of self-management, we make sure that every employee has been given the keys to participate in the decision making process and to perform his mission.
A continuously evolving role
Agile methodologies like Scrum and the models that scale it up to the company level ensure a framework where each team has direct access to important information to decide and self-manage. As a result, the hierarchical structure flattens out and the decision becomes decentralized. The manager job as we used to know it split into several “hats”, some of his responsibilities are now no longer the scope of the manager because they have been taken by the team itself: coordination, daily progress monitoring, arbitration, technical and functional choices, process review and improvement… New working methods have brought a greater sharing of roles, far from the rigidity of job descriptions, with adaptability as a keyword! Openspaces also adapted themselves to move into Flex Office (no appointed posts but working spaces where it is possible to change your seat regarding your needs) and remote working is becoming more and more common. In other words, we are witnessing a dissolution of the fixed structure of the team in the workspace, which is accompanied by an increased value of collaboration and collective intelligence.
A coach-manager in support of the collective dynamic of the team…
To coach is to accompany the awareness and the action by questioning, in order to reach the result wished by the coachee. It is also walking side by side in a relationship where everyone brings something to the other.
The coach-manager accompanies the team in achieving its objectives: rather than proposing ready-made solutions, he must therefore question and bring out the answers. This work is done through a path consisting first of all to jointly build the identity of the team, an identity based on the values of each team member and the common values. Afterwards, it is essential to ensure that the destination is known to everyone and that the team adheres to the objectives. Motivation passes through a clear and shared vision and it is up to the manager to federate the team around a purpose. Regarding the organization of work and the choice of execution options, the manager can provide ideas for tools that can catalyze collective intelligence, while ensuring everyone’s commitment to the selected actions.
Coaching also requires the definition of criteria to evaluate the achievement of objectives since they will allow the team to self-monitor and check that it is on the right track.
During the implementation step, the manager will also unlock obstacles and encourage risk taking, while reinforcing the idea that failure is an opportunity to learn.
… as well as of personal fulfillment
“I can’t find time anymore to work on my own tasks, I’m more and more requested on individual issues about a career wish or a disagreement with another member of the team.” Here is an example of the challenges that is facing a manager of Agile teams. Personal fulfillment, which is source of motivation as much as of loyalty, is today more than ever a major stake for the company. If the idea seems obvious, in fact, we do not take into account this workload in the means granted to the manager and in the prioritization of his objectives. The pressure is often pushing decision-makers to prefer an organization that favors the fast execution of tasks. The consequence then is that we often give too little time to subjects that fall outside the restricted scope of the team’s projects.
Yet this reasoning is in the long-term far less effective. Not only because creativity is stimulated by the meaning we give to our job, but also because it is innovation, and not standardized production, that makes the difference today. For these reasons, startups are attracting more and more skills. Here again, work environments have taken a step forward on mentalities: spaces of exchange, rest and play are taking place in Open Space even though the structures are not always ready to integrate them into their organization. This represents a major and complex challenge for managers in changing companies. To motivate, it is first essential to support the employee beyond his traditional tasks, through listening and questioning, in order to bring out objectives in line with his ambition and in the continuity of the vision of the company.
Giving the opportunity to innovate also implies providing the means: time, organization, working environment, training… The simple authorization can not be enough to leave the constraint of the short-term requirements of the projects. It is therefore essential to bring together the different stakeholders to clarify the values of empowerment and autonomy while explaining the advantages and disadvantages of such a change in culture. The implementation requires this common and conscious agreement, which is the main vector of success.