Friday, May 30, 2008

It's not the shoes, Mars...

Great article on the idea of personal agility. People on a team need to feel a personal sense of responsibility to their projects. More interestingly, they need a certain amount of emotional intelligence and personal development to be effective leaders. Traditional carrots and sticks as we know only work for some people.

The best performers at my last job were people who had a carrot bigger than the paycheck, e.g. they needed a green card, or people who just loved the thrill of chasing down the solution to the difficult problem, regardless of the impact this problem might be having. Anyone who did not have these characteristics generally failed to get promoted on my last team.

It looked like they only promoted people who worked 60-80+ hours a week, but it's interesting to think about why those people were willing to work those hours on problems that were the result of what I would characterize as management shortcomings, when the majority of the team was not. It is because the majority of the team had no incentive to work on things they knew were dumb, things that had a small impact on customers, or things that were just painful to work on.

In other words, personal agility is not a new way of commanding and controlling. It is a paradigmatic shift where management must lead by example, show and not tell, and instilling a sense of ownership (and developing a consequent sense of leadership). This is not something you can do by brute force, it is, like house music, something you need to feel. "If you don't feel the stirring in your heart after the first few bars of a tango, go find something else to do". (Rough paraphrase from 'La Cafe de los Mastros').

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