Get certified - Transform your world of work today


Manifesto for Twenty-First Century Management: Part I

Agile Management

11 March 2015

What's the problem?

I remember walking home from work one rainy evening in downtown Seattle. I had had a great day. I had a smile on my face. The homeless guy at the end of the street selling the Real Change newspaper knew that smiling faces don't turn down anticipatory looks. I bought a paper and we exchanged smiles before I resumed savoring the smell of the rain and enjoying my walk. I was a happy man, and it wasn't an unusual day. I loved working at my company and my manager brought out the best in me.

This could have been a "crappy rainy day" if I had had a stressful day at work. I have experienced working at a company where I felt completely demotivated, disengaged, and stressed. I am sure you have had similar experiences.

More than just "feeling bad"

According to Dr. Richard Boyatzis, working professionals have 8-12 incidents of chronic annoying stress on a good day. Working men encounter this 5-6 days per week. Working women encounter this 7 days per week. Stress is associated with higher production of cortisol, which suppresses the immune system and decreases bone formation. Buildup of this chronic annoying stress impairs our immune systems, cognition, and emotional states. Under this stress people have higher incidence of bacterial infection, influenza, type 2 diabetes, and ulcers. It also leads to heart problems, strokes, sleep disorders, gastrointestinal difficulties, and sexual dysfunctions (Dr. Richard Boyatzis talks about this and more in "Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence" on Coursera and on the CD Resonant Leadership).

Welcome to the corporate world!

One-third of our lives

We spend one-third of our lives at work; it's our responsibility to make it a better place. Just as we take care of our homes so we can end up in comfort after work, shouldn't we be attempting to make work itself a better place?

What else?

A global disengagement problem

According to Gallup's "State of the Global Workplace" report, only 13 percent of employees around the world are actively engaged in their jobs, find satisfaction in their work, and focus on creating value for their employers. Actively disengaged employees outnumber engaged employees by almost two to one.

Effect on the bottom line

According to Gallup research, higher engagement yields to considerably higher productivity and profitability, combined with less turnover and absenteeism.
  • Companies with engaged employees see a 240 percent improvement rate in business results.
  • In 2011-2012, organizations with an average of 9.3 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee experienced 147 percent higher earnings per share compared with their competition.
  • During that same time period, companies with an average of 2.6 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee experienced 2 percent lower earnings per share compared with their competition.
Human dynamics matter. Emotions matter.

So what?

Tendency to underrate and trivialize morale

According to the Version One 2013 "State of Agile" survey: “Improved team morale” was ranked fourth in actual improvements from adopting Agile methods, but it was perceived to be almost the least important, followed only by "managing distributed teams"!

We are marginalizing the importance of team morale. This prevailing perception is hurting us.

Who? That manager!

Here's something they'll probably never teach you in business school: The single biggest decision you make in your job -- bigger than all of the rest -- is who you name manager. When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits -- nothing.
-- Gallup CEO Jim Clifton
The leading factor influencing employee engagement is widely accepted to be an employee's relationship with his or her own direct manager.

Twenty-first century leadership skills matter!

Now what?

With this in mind, I am writing this manifesto to help managers make the right choices and make the world a better place.

Image: Movie Matrix

Manifesto for twenty-first century management

Developing resonant relationships instead of perpetuating dissonant relationships

Inspiring, exciting, and motivating people instead of judging, evaluating, assessing them

Driving people toward a vision instead of focusing on their task completion

Enabling self-organization instead of exerting centralized control

Cultivating intrinsic motivation instead of exploiting extrinsic motivation

Embracing and exploiting diversity instead of seeking conformance

There is science out there that can help managers become leaders and coaches. I will explain each one of these value statements, along with solid, unbeatable evidence backing them up, in Part II of this article. Until then, keep changing!

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

Current rating: 4.5 (6 ratings)


Robert Day, CSM, 3/11/2015 9:04:58 AM
Completely agree with your article, Raghu. The only problem is that it takes a manager to be - or to feel - that they are sufficiently empowered to make these sort of changes in their teams, because quite often the company or organisation as a whole may well have values that run counter to your manifesto.

An organisation that plays favourites amongst staff and managers will perpetuate dissonant relationships (because not everyone can be a favourite all the time). Most organisations will have some sort of performance assessment mechanism, if only to determine the level of pay increase at the end of each year; some will even actively enforce performance assessment as a control mechanism that disincentivises and demotivates colleagues. Such mechanisms will often focus on completing objectives, and impose conformity.

If we can use Agile principles to raise consciousness and turn the organisation towards the objectives you've set out, then that is good. Sadly, the preponderence of Type A personalities in work environments will tend to work against this aim - even to the point of targeting anyone trying to improve workplace matters in the way you suggest and marking them for an early exit.
Robert Day, CSM, 3/11/2015 9:12:55 AM
And then the only real answer is to bail out yourself and try to find someone to work for who shares your vision. It can sometimes be a high-risk strategy, especially in uncertain economic times, but sometimes it can be the only way for the individual to keep their motivation and personal integrity intact!

In time, the process of natural business selection will (hopefully!) weed out the centralised, command-and-control organisations and leave the field to the Agile, motivational ones that you are working towards and that will improve things for everyone.
Raghu Challapilla, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 3/11/2015 7:48:33 PM
Robert - Very through assessment! I agree that tipping point plays a huge rule. Though small changes can also be made locally, but the organization must have a threshold agility in it's culture to let those leaders make changes. As per Steve Denning the current state of corporate world going through Copernican Revolution I have detailed these thoughts in Part 2 of this article. I will look forward to your comments on that.
Raghu Challapilla, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 3/11/2015 7:50:24 PM
And yes survival of the fittest plays it's role!

You must Login or Signup to comment.

The community welcomes feedback that is constructive and supportive, in the spirit of better understanding and implementation of Scrum.


Newsletter Sign-Up