Antipattern: attracting the work

Few days ago I've written a blog post about feature teams - I wasn't hiding that it was inspired by C. Larman's book about scaling Agile. Or rather by one of the chapters that I've found very interesting & thought-provoking. There's another excerpt I keep coming back to, because I've found it very genuine & important:

"The project manager became responsible for the coordination among teams and even for the communication to the Product Owner. He became stressed and overloaded with work. When we told him that his role is not needed, he laughed, and pointed out the amount of work he was doing. He did not realized that his role attracted the work, and that the work - the major bottleneck in the product group - would disappear if his role was removed."

"Scaling Lean & Agile Development: Thinking and Organizational Tools for Large-Scale Scrum" Craig Larman, Bas Vodde

Got the idea? Let it sink for a second ...

Every organization is a bit different - there are different roles, responsibilities & hierarchies. Obviously there's no perfect setup, combinations are infinite, but in the end - whole picture has to make sense:

  • intermediaries in communication routes must have a reasonable justification
  • people should get only the information that is relevant to them
  • everyone has to remain pragmatic about what (s)he can handle -> in terms of processing information as well
  • each piece of work done on any level has to add value
  • redundancy / inefficiency should be eliminated
  • both dependencies & responsibility areas should be clear & known (communicated)
  • etc.

Sounds easy? It isn't.
We love attracting the work. Because:

  1. it makes us feel important (& needed)
  2. we love to know about EVERYTHING that's happening
  3. we (honestly) believe our participation in everything that's happening is crucial for the final success (and that's a bullshit & lying to yourself of course)

As a result:

  • people accept every meeting invitation they get, even those without agenda, clear purpose
  • discussion (& taking part in it) is far more important that actionable items & clear follow-up list
  • importance is measured with visible impression of business ("he's handling 3 talks in the same time while sending 20 mails per hour, he's a top performer!")

Don't do that, it's just short-sighted. You're not just not adding value, actually you're reducing the operational velocity in the organization. You're a c*ckblock. Showstopper. Dimmer. What could be done instead?

  1. go gemba (details here)
  2. co-op with people you've been proxying until now
  3. utilize your experience by leading by example
  4. be a manager-coach-teacher