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Manifesto for Twenty-First Century Management: Part 2

Agile Management

24 March 2015

Developing resonant relationships instead of perpetuating dissonant relationships

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

If you have not read Part 1 of this article, I recommend reading it before delving into Part 2, especially if you don't see the importance of these statements at first glance. In this part of the article, I will elaborate on each of them.

Recap: Why I am writing this manifesto

Because the traditional management style is hurting everyone, including managers. The traditional dissonant, commanding, judging, punishing management style that motivates people with fear, anger, bonuses, and promotions, without inspiring, exciting, and motivating them, is hurting everyone. In this modern corporate world we have at least 8 to 12 incidents of chronic annoying stress every day! (See Dr. Richard Boyatzis in "Inspiring Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence" on Coursera.) We need a management style that won't hurt our society psychologically. Moreover, there is a massive impact on the bottom line (for those who care more about that).

This is not a battle against managers -- it's a revolution against the traditional management style.

These value statements are guides, acting as starts and reminders. No matter what situation managers/leaders are in, they can rely on these value statements to guide their behavior in order to make it more conducive to everyone's success and well-being.

I want these value statements to serve as a common language to fight against traditional management style until the tipping point has changed the equation for the good.

Not that we don't have a lot of management material available already -- but these statements succinctly express a lot of what we need to know about twenty-first-century management, and they are easy for people to remember. Just like the Agile Manifesto!

Developing a resonant relationship instead of perpetuating a dissonant relationship


Dr. Richard Boyatzis, PhD from Harvard University and founding member of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations, assessed, along with his colleagues, the impact of resonant and dissonant interactions on executives. These executives (average age 49 years) underwent an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) and recalled their previous interactions with resonant and dissonant leaders.

Recalling previous interactions with resonant leaders activated attention in ways that allowed a person to be open to new ideas. It also activated the "social network," making them understand their social environment much better. Recalling interactions with dissonant leaders activated areas of the brain noted for focused attention. While focused attention allows us to persist in a task, it also closes our minds to ideas or emotions that have not been a part of the defined situation or task, effectively preventing an executive from being open to new ideas. It also suppresses the social network, making people less capable of scanning and understanding their social environment.

In separate research, two groups of schoolteachers were asked to grade the same papers. One group was put in a positive state of mind, the other group in a negative one. The teachers in a positive state of mind gave much higher grades to their students, as they were more open to various possible explanations of the solution.

Simon Sinek also explained the emotional impact of leader's actions on employees' neurotransmitters in his in-depth talk "Why Leaders Eat Last."

Many other scholars, including Dr. Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and Dr. Daniel Goleman, codirector the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations, have also done research in this field, coming to the same conclusion.

Resonant leaders put a person into a positive state in which they can build relationships, think creatively, remain open, and approach people. Imagine the power of resonant relationships at work!

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

From threat to quest

Benjamin Zander is the coauthor of "The Art of Possibility," conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, a popular motivational speaker, and a teacher. He gives an A grade to everyone in his class on the first day. He says that, just as we don't name our children with an expectation to live up to but a possibility to live into, we need to gives them grades that awaken the possibilities instead of focusing on the gaps.

Here is a short video of Benjamin Zander talking at a conference organized by the National College for School Leadership, which I highly recommend watching:

Now let me take you to the headquarters of Nordstrom in Seattle, Washington. Nordstrom Innovation Labs has a ritual of doing "failure bows" for any mistakes made by their teams (e.g., breaking the integration build). Everyone responds by applauding! Yes, applauding. Not giving the frown that we are used to receiving at such times.

If we judge, evaluate, and assess people, we will inject fear into the system. If there is fear in the system, people will try to avoid making mistakes. The easiest way to avoid making mistakes is to avoid attempts. That’s how we end up with apathetic and disengaged employees, with people who posture but are not committed to improving anything.

Inspiring, exciting, and motivating people is important. Awakening possibility is important. As Zander says, we need to ask ourselves, “Are their eyes shining?” And if their eyes are not shining, we should ask ourselves, “Who am I being, that their eyes are not shining?

We have to move people from "threat" to "quest"!

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

Push versus pull

"If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed.
The vision pulls you."
-- Steve Jobs

Roman Pichler recommends creating a product vision that motivates people, connects them to the product, and inspires them. He asks people to make their vision broad and ambitious so that it engages people, drives teamwork, and can facilitate a change in strategy.
The same applies to any kind of knowledge work. We need to inspire people with a broad and engaging vision. Ewan O'Leary expressed this very succinctly in this LinkedIn post, "The Opposite of a Job Is a Purpose."

The local optimization problem

If we give people a task, they will try to be the best at that task and optimize locally, even at the cost of compromising the bigger organizational/team goals. As Dean Leffingwell has said, "There is more value created with overall alignment than local excellence."

Theory X and Y

Douglas McGregor, an American social psychologist, proposed his famous X-Y theory in his 1960 book The Human Side of Enterprise.
  • Theory X is the "authoritarian" management style and operates under the assumption that the average person dislikes work and will avoid work and therefore must be forced toward the objectives.
  • Theory Y is the "participative" management style and operates under the assumption that average person likes their work and will apply self-control and self-direction in the pursuit of objectives without external control, and that the commitment to objectives is a function of rewards associated with their achievement.
If you are thinking that you have to switch from the X to the Y style based on whether or not people are self-driven -- you are forgetting that it's your job to drive them. With a purpose . . . with a vision!

If your team doesn’t have a vision, take time to create one. It’s worth it!

Enabling self-organization instead of exerting centralized control

Battle of Jena-Auerstedt (Prussians versus Napoleon)

On October 14, 1806, two Prussian armies were shattered and defeated by a French army. Prussians were the most successful and admired armies in Europe. Even Napoleon did not believe his victory!

Prussia's main weakness:
  • The high command structure was very weak and included command positions held by multiple officers.
  • Most of the divisions were poorly organized and did not communicate well with each other.
In an article analyzing the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, "The Prussians Are Cunning," management consultant and historian Stephen Bungay pointed out lessons that can be learned from this battle:
  • Fear of retribution should not curb the willingness of subordinates to exercise their judgment.
  • Specifying too much detail actually creates uncertainty if things do not turn out as anticipated.
  • The chain of command can get disrupted, so people at all the levels must remain in charge.
  • People should be encouraged to adapt their actions to realize the overall intention.

The creative economy

Steve Denning, author and Scrum Alliance board member, has beautifully explained why hierarchical bureaucracy is outdated in the emerging economy of the twenty-first century (refer to the Scrum Alliance webinar Agile and the Creative Economy). Hierarchical, bureaucratic, and centralized, the "hub-and-spoke" management style helps get semiskilled workers to perform repetitive works efficiently while coordinating those efforts so that products can be produced in large quantities.

Today’s world is uncertain, competitive, and complex. Market conditions keep changing. Hence we need collaborative management practices and leaders who will enable self-organization!

The "How" question

If you want to learn more about how to lead and influence self-organization, refer to Mike Cohn’s presentation Leading a Self-Organizing Team (or, better, read that chapter in his book Succeeding with Agile).

If you want to indulge yourself with deeper scientific knowledge, you may sift through Dr. Glenda Eoyang’s dissertation Conditions for Self-Organizing in Human Systems.

Cultivating intrinsic motivation instead of exploiting extrinsic motivation

I am a big proponent of the stick, because carrots are expensive and slow(!?)

I was talking to a senior leader at a large company. Motivation came up in our conversation and he said, "I am a big proponent of the stick, because carrots are expensive and slow!"

(If you don't know the carrot-and-stick analogy, the carrot is the reward given to horses to make them run faster, and stick is the punishment to achieve the same purpose.)
Sadly enough, most managers still motivate their people with fear, anger, bonuses, and promotions! Whatever happened to intrinsic motivation?

Purpose-maximizing gene: FLOW and Mastery

We need money to meet our basic needs, but beyond that we seek purposeful living. Abraham Maslow explained this through Maslow’s hierarchy.

Humans are not only profit maximizes but also purpose maximizers.

Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term "FLOW" to define a state of ecstasy and ultimate happiness reported by people when they are fully immersed in the task at hand, like playing guitar, dancing, or solving a math problem. He described FLOW as the developed capacity of the ego to master a skill.

Mastery feels good!

Drive the three pieces of the puzzle

How do we cultivate intrinsic motivation? Daniel Pink gave us the three pieces needed to solve this puzzle in his book Drive (refer to his TED Talk for a summary), viz.,
  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose
Let's move away from carrots and sticks and learn to cultivate the ultimate driving power -- the intrinsic motivation!

Embracing and exploiting diversity instead of seeking conformance

Mob mentality

Five monkeys were placed in a cage. In the middle of the cage there was a ladder with a banana on top. As a monkey attempted to get the banana by climbing the ladder, cold water was sprayed on all the monkeys. As the second money attempted to get the banana, same thing happened. After a while, none of the monkeys dared try to get the banana.

One of the monkeys was then replaced with a new monkey who, unaware of the situation, hurried to get the banana -- only to be pulled down by the other monkeys. The new monkey was confused and tried again and again until it learned from the others' reactions not to climb the ladder.

One by one, all the monkeys were replaced with new monkeys. None were ever sprayed by water -- and none of them lets any of the others climb the ladder to try. None of them know why, but they know the rule.

This is believed to be a thought experiment of G.R. Stephenson. There is no evidence that the experiment itself actually happened, but it does explain mob mentality.

We have seen the manifestation of such conformance in corporate culture in the famous "That's the way it's always been around here" rule!

Complex adaptive systems

An organization is a complex adaptive system. In a complex adaptive system, diversity makes fundamental contributions to system performance. Scott Page, in his book Diversity and Complexity, explains how diversity underpins system-level robustness, allowing for multiple responses to external shocks and internal adaptations; how it provides the seeds for large events by creating outliers that fuel tipping points; and how it drives novelty and innovation.

Evolutionary studies have also shown us that biodiversity can support a species to evolve and persist even in environments where it was previously thought impossible (see "Importance of Diversity: Reconciling Natural Selection and Noncompetitive Processes.")

To exploit diversity of ideas, management has to decentralize decision making. MIT Professor Thomas W. Malone explains three general benefits of decentralization:
  • Encourages motivation and creativity
  • Allows many minds to work simultaneously on the same problem
  • Accommodates flexibility and individualization
Dr. Keith Sawyer has done many studies on the topic of collaboration and published a book, Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration. The key takeaway of this book is that a group has much higher creative power than the sum of all individuals, due to the diversity of ideas involved.

Conformance dampens this diversity and dilutes the outcome. We need to respect diversity in order to be robust, adaptable, and innovative.


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 (4 ratings)


Robert Day, CSM, 3/27/2015 5:44:23 AM

Thanks for another thoughtful and comprehensive article. You have addressed a lot of issues that those of us in knowledge-based industries encounter and which are only coming to light as business and commerce adapts to changing circumstances.

From my position, I feel that a lot of developers and other IT staff - in fact, a lot of knowledge workers generally - see themselves as separate from more traditional, command-and-control workers in manufacturing or in clerical situations. Yet even if this is true in organisations that are predominantly knowledge-driven, there may well still be traditional 'Type A' managers somewhere in the management chain; and those individuals may manifest themselves at any time, dependent on events or the movement of individuals in or out of the business. Hopefully, as more senior managers become acquainted with both the positive aspects of Agile project management and the negative outward signs and effects of Type A personalities, they will see the need to implement and support change - but it's a slow, uncertain and sometimes painful process.

On inspiring and motivating - sometimes, the organisation insists on evaluating and assessing individuals for purposes of reward. This tends to be a feature of large organisations and "one size fits all" arrangements for what used to be called "pay and rations". One answer is to downsize and separate off different functions into discrete organisations of their own; this has effectively been the outcome where businesses have hived off different business functions as standalone bodies through management buy-out or divestment of non-core functions. Otherwise, there may be pressure from the bulk of lower-paid operatives for an equal deal with the higher-paid ones, at least in terms of overall structures, or where terms and conditions are concerned if not actual pay levels.

As a software tester, I accept that there will always be defects in an application, and there will always be ones that escape detection in the most rigourous of test programmes. This principle applies across all areas of human activity. As the saying goes, "The only person who never made any mistakes never did anything." I find it more realistic to base judgement on how individuals or organisations react or recover when things go wrong, as they inevitably do.

Towards a vision...
Knowledge work attracts a certain sort of person; people who are self-motivated, and who enjoy discovery. These people do not need to be led towards a vision; they will either lead themselves, or discover their own path. The trick comes when you have to engage, lead and inspire people not working in those fields; and the language you use to motivate and lead those people has to be different, because talking about 'vision' and 'purpose' just won't chime with them in many cases. These tend to be instances where Type A management styles tend to be found. So the challenge of these sort of situations is to make the switch to more collaborative leadership styles and make it work.

It's all very well to sing the praises of self-organisation and the creative economy, but not everyone is, can be or wants to be a knowledge worker. Someone still needs to clean the offices, carry out the rubbish and fix the lights when they fail. So how do we motivate people in these situations? This comes back to the "vision thing" and questions of leadership. It is possible, despite what I said earlier. I was once told that if you went to NASA's Manned Spaceflight Center in Houston, Tx, and saw someone sweeping up leaves outside the building and asked them what their job was, they'd say "I help launch the Space Shuttle." That they helped by ensuring that the grounds were kept tidy was immaterial - they felt a part of the overall enterprise of the organisation - going back to von Moltke's methods of leadership! In our own organisation, we run a call handling centre; it is notable that once a month, the CEO spends a morning on that call centre taking ordinary calls from clients. It can be done.

My answer to the manager who said "carrots are expensive and slow!" would have been to say "Yes, but carrots help you see in the dark!". (That was a propaganda fiction put about in World War 2 to hide the fact that British night-fighter pilots had the secret advantage of radar; but the idea I'm trying to put over is that the 'carrots' in the carrot-and-stick model are things that, properly used, add value to the business. A manager who prefers to rule by fear isn't adding value to the organisation.)

Purpose maximisation was something identified by Karl Marx, of all people. In his perfect world, individuals would be hunters in the morning, a fisherman in the afternoon and a critic in the evening, and society should be organised to allow this to happen. That goal isn't completely incompatible with running a business: see this article about the company that bought the LED flashlight to the market:

Finally: the 'monkey experiment' is a meme that's been heavily modified in the retelling: the original experiment was nothing like the story described! (The second link takes you to the actual paper.)

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