Agile, Business Performance Consulting, People, Project Management

Agile Knowledge Work: New Methods

The thrust of traditional management, Addlesons suggests, is about driving efficiency. However this can manifest itself in a way that is very different than caring about human-social interaction and collaboration. Yet it is hard to think of a single knowledge worker you know who wants to be told how to work and exactly what to do every moment, instead of feeling like a self-realized person with something to offer if given the chance.

Agile works well for developers – why?

Agile software development has emerged as a shining example of knowledge work that breaks the choke-hold of traditional management. Agile embraces the ability to change quickly and collaboratively, and requires moving away from the waterfall approach to a focus on empowered person-to-person interactions.

Why does Agile work so well for developers?  The Agile process is highly complex, collaborative, and creative. Time is invested in not only organizing and developing, but checking how developments align to customer needs, and adjusting accordingly. It requires the team to unburden themselves from traditional management frameworks to accomplish a shared goal more effectively and efficiently than otherwise, particularly in a complex, dynamic environment.

How would this look for knowledge workers?

In his book, Addleson suggests Agile Methodologies captures the mushy stuff of values and culture. It captures the ideas of people actually caring about each other and the quality of the work they produce collectively. He asserts that collaboration and self-organizing does not happen unless those involved actually care.

Collective work and care then become glue for social relationships. It leads people, not managers, to make and keep commitments. Responsibility, commitment and accountability are still vital to getting things done. A higher degree of these three things emerges when people care about what they’re doing and one another.

“Caring” as a role of new management?

What role do managers really play then? Can they move to become “enablers”? Georg Von Krog suggests there are four dimensions of care which enable knowledge creation, 1) mutual trust, 2) active empathy, 3) access to help, and 4) license to judgement.

If you currently manage a team, to what degree are you ‘in’ the work vs. ‘over’ the work? How much do you really care about each team member as a peer?

What are some ways to implement this in an organization you know of? What could go wrong?

This post is part of a series based on the ideas in the book, Beyond Management, Taking Charge at Work, by Mark Addleson.

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