Saturday, September 12, 2009

Why Organizations May be Uncomfortable Getting the Kind of Employees They Say They Want

Organizations often say they want individuals to have the characteristics Agile calls self-managing/organizing, so why do organizations sometimes doubt/resist teams doing so? To me, an Agile approach would seem to encourage developing exactly the kinds of people organizations claim they want: empowered, skilled, motivated, responsible, concerned with quality, responsive to customers, etc.

I asked about this on Twitter. Here are some of the responses:

@skirk Because they (the resistors) don't understand the changes involved and are afraid. Change has to come from within.

@madwilliamflint Because in those instances organizations want 'self motivated' but NOT 'independent' which they see as unpredictable. Last thing they want is what they see as "rogue programmers." They mean "works w/o badgering."

@estherderby Managers lack knowledge of how to set appropriate boundaries & negotiate explicit decision-making authority, which is part of the reason they freak out. no boundaries --> unpredictable behavior.

@tottinge I think they want self-SUPERVISING members, not self-MANAGING members. They confuse the terms.

@YvesHanoulle I want my kids also to have an opinion and be independent. I hope to raise them so that they end up with a strong personality. But in the morning rush, when we are juggling to get them on time to school and ourself to work, it does not feel like the right time for me that they practice that. Managers also want their teams to become self-organizational because they heard it is better. But if they never had the experience of such a team, the first time feels very frustrating. Just like how I feel in the morning with my kids.

One idea I think came through the discussion was that statements about the kind of employees desired are more corporate in nature while resistance often comes individually. That is, what is said collectively and what people are comfortable doing individually are different things. It’s also likely that, while there is a desire for more initiative from workers, there are also concerns over when that occurs, e.g., a general license to make decisions about everything isn't desired.

I’m reminded of an Agile 2009 session I attended on “Boundary, Authority, Role and Tasks” which you might want to read.

What do you think are reasons why what Agile offers as potential people development might not be accepted readily?

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