Follow me this way!

Follow me this way!

Most any substantive of discussion of Agile sooner or later turns to leadership.  As teams embrace the principles in the Agile Manifesto that foster self-organization and self-management, they often require a shift away from classic management techniques.  In some cases as teams begin exploring Agile the idea of management becomes an anathema, while in other cases, the concepts of leadership and management are conflated. Leadership and management are not the same thing and in most organizations both are required.

A manager is a person responsible for controlling, administering and/or directing all or part of an organization.  Alternatively, a leader is a person that provides motivation and vision that compels others to work with the leader to achieve the goals.

Comparing leaders and managers provides even more distinctions.  

Attribute Leader Manager
Power Informal, Earned Formal, Hierarchical
People Followers, Voluntary Subordinates, Authority
Decision Making Facilitates Makes
Vision Tactical Strategic
Risk Posture Avoid Taker
Culture Endorses Shapes

The list of attributes could go on; however, we can boil down the difference between a manager and leader to the distinction to three critical characteristics: earned power, vision, and followers. Most, if not all, of the rest of the attributes build on that base.  While the difference between a leader and manager is knife edge sharp, who plays each role is far murkier.

A leader provides the vision and motivation needed to push the boundaries, change direction and challenge the status quo ante. Managers, on the other hand, deliver the administration needed for an organization to run; for example, creating and managing budgets, hiring and firing personnel, signing contracts, and other equally important tasks.  Without someone to “handle” these tasks, no amount of leadership will keep an organization going in the long run. What makes a manager in the knowledge economy different is the need to empower subordinates to plan the day-to-day detail and leaders to leader all the while providing the environment for the magic to happen.

In the knowledge economy, value is dependent on the information available and the ability of people workers who are no longer undifferentiated cogs in the machine.  In this new world, management and leadership are not easily separated. Knowledge workers look to their managers and leaders to provide a vision and a purpose. In order to deliver organizational value, managers must provide the organization that facilitates the development of skills and talent while simultaneously inspiring results. In today’s business environment the role of manager and leader are dependent on each other.  Both roles are required in any partnership, team or multinational organization. There is no reason why a leader and manager can’t be the same person playing different roles based on context, but both roles need to be played.

Management / Leadership Thread

  • Five Different Management Styles
  • Leadership versus Management (Current)
  • Management Styles in Agile Teams
  • Management Styles in Scaled Agile
  • Servant Leaders, Revisited


Attention Dogs

Delegative management?

During a keynote speech at a conference I recently attended I listened to a Phillip Lew challenge the orthodoxy of Agile’s over-reliance on group decision making (participative management) styles.  Agile teams are typically built a presumption that group decision making is all that is needed to deliver value to the customer. Group decision making is often compared to classic command and control forms (autocratic) of management. In many cases, autocratic management is portrayed as the antithesis of Agile which casts the discussion in terms of good and evil.  Casting the discussion of management styles in terms of good and evil is probably an overstatement and just believing that are there only two management styles is a miss-statement. Let’s deal with the miss-statement first. There are at least five common management styles. Before we can wrestle with whether Agile only works if a pure participative management is used we need to agree on a few definitions. (more…)

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The Software Process and Measurement Cast 408 features our interview with Kupe Kupersmith. Kupe and I discussed the role of the business analyst in today’s dynamic environment.  It is critical to defining and facilitating the delivery of value. Weighty topics, but we also had a bit of fun.

“Kupe” Kupersmith, President, B2T Training, possesses over 18 years of experience in software systems development. He has served as the lead Business Analyst and Project Manager on projects in the energy, television and sports management and marketing industries. Additionally, he serves as a mentor for business analysis professionals. Kupe is the co-author of Business Analysis for Dummies, a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP®) and a former IIBA® Board Member.

Kupe is a requested speaker and has presented at many conferences around the world. Being a trained improvisational comedian, Kupe is sure to make you laugh while you’re learning. For a feel for Kupe’s view on business analysis topics check out his blog on BA Times. Kupe is a connector and has a goal in life to meet everyone!

Contact Information

Re-Read Saturday News (more…)

XP Explained Cover

This week we continue with the re-read of Kent Beck and Cynthia Andres’s Extreme Programing Explained, Second Edition (2005) with two more chapters in Section Two.  Chapters 18 and 19 provide a view into two very different management philosophies that shaped software development in general and have had a major impact on XP.  Chapter 18 discusses Taylorism and scientific management; a management knows best view of the world. Chapter 19 talks about the Toyota Production System, which puts significant power back in the hands of the practitioner to deliver a quality product. (more…)

You got to have courage!

You got to have courage!

I listen to Malcolm Gladwell’s wonderful Revisionist History podcast. In the last podcast of season one, he discussed “the satire paradox.” The punchline of the most recent installment of the podcast is that change is not possible without courage. Flexibility requires courage.  Change, when embracing something like Agile, requires the flexibility to give something up.  Perhaps we might be asked to move outside of our comfort zone and work differently, or to work with people we haven’t worked with before.  Asking testers and developers to work on the same team or to work as pairs or asking backend and UI subteams to work together require flexibility.  We can define flexibility to embrace Agile or any other significant modification to work based on four basic attributes: (more…)

A pile of empty pizza boxes!

WIP limits are needed to stop waiting in queues.

Recently a long-time reader and listener came to me with a question about a team with two sub-teams that were not participating well together. In a previous entry we began describing how kanban or Scrumban could be leveraged to help teams identify issues with how they work and then to fix them.  We conclude with the last two steps in a simple approach to leveraging kanban or Scrumban: (more…)

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The Software Process and Measurement Cast 407 includes four separate columns.  We begin with a short essay refreshing the pros and cons of Test Driven Development. Test Driven Development promises a lot of benefits but all is not light, kittens and puppies. Still, TDD is well worth doing if you go into it with your eyes open.

Our second column features Kim Pries, the Software Sensei.  Kim discusses what makes software “good.” The Software Sensei puts the “good” in quotes because it is actually a difficult word to define but Kim is willing to give the discussion a go!

In our third column, we return to Tame The Flow: Hyper-Productive Knowledge-Work Performance, The TameFlow Approach and Its Application to Scrum and Kanban published J Ross (buy a copy here). We tackle Chapter 10 which is titled The Thinking Processes. Thinking processes are key to effectively using  Agile, lean and kanban processes.  

Gene Hughson anchors the cast with an entry from his Form Follows Function Blog.  In this installment, we discuss the blog entry titled “Learning to Deal with the Inevitable.”  Gene and I discussed change which is inevitable and innovation which is not quite as inevitable.

Re-Read Saturday News

This week we continue our re-read of Kent Beck’s XP Explained, Second Edition with a discussion of Chapters 16 and 17.   Chapter 16 ends Section One with an interview with Brad Jensen.  Section Two addresses the philosophies of XP.  Chapter 17 tells the creation story of XP from Beck’s point of view.

We are going to read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Jossey-Bass .  This will be a new book for me, therefore, an initial read (I have not read this book yet), not a re-read!  Steven Adams suggested the book and it has been on my list for a few years! Click the link (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team), buy a copy and in a few weeks, we will begin to read the book together.

Use the link to XP Explained in the show notes when you buy your copy to read along to support both the blog and podcast. Visit the Software Process and Measurement Blog ( to catch up on past installments of Re-Read Saturday.


In the next Software Process and Measurement Cast, we will feature our interview with Kupe Kupersmith. Kupe brings his refreshing take on the role of the business analyst in today’s dynamic environment.  This interview was informative, provocative and entertaining.     

Shameless Ad for my book!

Mastering Software Project Management: Best Practices, Tools and Techniques co-authored by Murali Chematuri and myself and published by J. Ross Publishing. We have received unsolicited reviews like the following: “This book will prove that software projects should not be a tedious process, for you or your team.” Support SPaMCAST by buying the book here. Available in English and Chinese.


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