Management Warming and Stoos, message from Czecho-Slovakia

I have learned about interesting initiative by Jurgen Appelo organized in Switzerland – Stoos Gathering. Being a manager myself and agile change agent, too, it let me think about my experience from the field. What does it mean “Why is management changing so slowly?”

In recent weeks I went through several situations. In first one manager told me how vibrantly was accepted a book Management 3.0. in his organization and how people speaks about it. I have asked deeper to learn “…too many new ideas and so great… “. In another one I co-trained Scrum Master Course to open discussion on organizational structure to see how chaotic discussion simply blows up and how my expertise was challenged. And maybe last one, when at discussion forum we discussed “line management role” and discussion got confused over elementary managerial things.

My observation in Czech and Slovak IT companies (further I was not investigating) is that managers have practically no professional formation in management. They are those former developers, who have been promoted to become team leaders, or project managers, or department managers, or directors, or similar. Nobody has prepared them for their new position and nobody trains them in their job.

So how they can manage?

Many looks around trying to copy what other do. No need to study further: “We have common sense that we apply here…” is their typical answer. Others rely on HR department for help, which unfortunately has no budget for serious things and no knowledge either. Many are glued to corporate processes – this is how it must be done. I guess I haven’t seen yet many higher managers who trains and develops its subordinates. It is rare to meet manager who works on himself for himself no matter budget availability, too.

I always thought if one wants to be manager, he needs education and practice. Same applies to many professions – medics, teachers, engineers, researchers, pilots, drivers and many more. Why not in management? Constant attempts to bypass this fact in management cannot end up without consequences. Lack of interest among people, demotivation and waste of human capital are already serious issues. But lack of competitiveness, loss of jobs and opportunities, economic impact on businesses and community, impact on people and their families or moral hazard are true disasters, as todays complexity in environment augment negative effects exponentially. And management is essential to make difference.

This raises my curiosity. Why so much vibrancy around Management 3.0 book? There is not much new in the book itself above good course in Management of Business Administration indeed. Catalogued in fashion way. Why so much confusion and hot discussions around ideas originating from works of Edward Deming, Peter Drucker, Thomas Senge, Henry Fayol, Thomas Peters and many others? It is simply todays managers never heard these names and never needed to search for their works. They are not prepared for their job. As the business world changes faster, they become impediments.

How to accelerate change in management?

I thing such question needs to be reframed. “How to convince managers that professional formation in management is indeed necessary for their profession?” makes better sense to me.

In spite of Agile is being modern buzzword, its ideas are not that new. In 1894 Thomas Bata with family founded shoe factory and managed it innovatively around his firmed values. Well, decades later we call them Agile. World is changing and evolution works in circles. Rise of creative class and knowledge workers brought new opportunities into changing world. However, underlying principles remained unchanged and emerge up again from history. Managers should be aware of them. Quality of management is essential for successful agile transformation. Agile is not a goal here but a tool on the way to achieve long term and sustainable competitiveness for companies in knowledge industry. And it can’t be achieved without training and education. So here is my message for Stoos from Czecho-Slovakia.

Tips to read:

Thomas J. Bata: Shoemaker to the World, Stoddart Pub.,Canada 1990, ISBN-10: 0773724168

About author: Michal Vallo helps companies deploy agile techniques and improve performance. He is agile trainer, coach and manager at Aguarra and founding member of Agilia community.