The Scrum world mostly focuses on leading agile teams. In this community we constantly discuss how to treat team members and whether the Product Owner is a part of the team or not. We question the role of management and are still not sure if the ScrumMaster is a leader. Several times the agile world tried to dismiss managers as not being useful anymore. In his famous article “First, let’s fire all the managers” Gary Hamel even treated the manager’s position as a tax rather than a value creating function (Hamel 2011). Most people on the operational level (primarily those who produce something) consider managers as not creating value. Management is something bad whereas no management is something good. Sometimes, agilists believe that only leadership is necessary and people are able to manage themselves.
I have never been sure whether this simplistic approach to distinction between management and leadership is really useful. And I am still struggling with the idea that large corporations like Daimler, General Motors, Apple or Google shall exist without having a “management”. Of course I know that Buurtzorg for example doesn’t have a distinctive management level, neither has Spotify. Being aware of that, I wanted to know more and went back to university. I enrolled in a Global Executive Master of Business Administration Program at St. Gallen University (HSG). Within the first week of the program I was shown that the professors thought like the protagonists of the agile world but they don’t try to simplify things in the same way as we sometimes tend to do within the agile community.
It might be useful for the agile community to understand the deep implications of seeing management as a “reflexive design praxis” as the St. Gallen Management Model (SGMM) suggests (I will talk about the SGMM in another article). One “translation” of the SGMM into practical terms is described by a model, that I do not claim having understood correctly in detail yet but I would like to share a piece with you which helped me understand the difference between the logical levels of vision and strategy. Looks pretty obvious when you see this model, but not having clear this distinction before had confused my thinking. We got this depiction from HSG Professor Dr. Wolfgang Jenewein who specializes in High Performance Teams (he has also written a book about it, see Jenewein and Heidbrink 2008). He coaches large organizations as well as football teams – and it seems to me that he is very successful in doing so.
You can see the model he introduced and which is used at HSG by many professors in the picture. Please note that this is not the St. Gallen Management Model itself (Rüegg-Stürm and Grand, 2015) which I will try to describe in another article. The model explained by Jenewein operates on three levels – normative, strategic and operational – and five different aspects of management (give a vision, create a strategy, build an organization, form a culture and lead your people) which comprise “Leadership” as one necessary function of management. Let’s have a look at the three levels:
- The normative level represents the settings put in place by managers or e.g. the board of directors. One function of the normative level is to determine the vision of the company or the team. A vision offers the “Why?” (see Sinek 2011). The normative level is located above the strategic level, so the strategy of a company or team is not part of the vision but it can influence the vision of course.
- Most of the time, the strategic level consists of a set of processes to determine and guide the actions of a company or team. On this level we need to answer all the questions which help guiding the company. We need to deliver:
b. The positioning of the company/team = the differentiation to other teams or companies
c. Customer segments and the respective customer needs
d. We need to consider potentials and risks of our strategy
e. And it is all about the FUTURE!
- The operational level is the most important according to the agile community as the “real” work is done on this level:
a. Set up of processes to organize the organization. That means also to set targets and goals for the organization.
b. Working on and building the culture
c. “Leadership” is a day to day activity which is shaped by the context you are working in. If you are the head of department, you will need to set up visions that are different from those visions you would set up if you were the ScrumMaster of a cross-functional development team.
I believe this model helps us to understand which aspects of management need to be taken care of in order to structure an organization, a department, a project and even a team. As the ScrumMaster is the one who works on raising the productivity of the organization, he is also in charge (on his level) of making this happen.
The ScrumMaster has to make sure that there is a vision, a strategy, a clear set of rules that guides the organization and he needs to build the culture. He or she does this by applying modern leadership tools as I described in “Selforganization needs Leadership”(available online here)
If you understand leadership as an activity then you can also learn it. You can learn how to help your team by working on all three levels using the appropriate “transfers”, f.e. the company vision becomes the product vision, the strategy might become your product roadmap and so on. Using an approach that lets team members grow in their personality, work attitude and ability of self organization.
Hamel, G. (2011). First, let’s fire all the managers. Harvard Business Review, 89(12), 48-60.
Jenewein, W., Heidbrink, M. (2008). High-Performance-Teams: Die fünf Erfolgsprinzipien für Führung und Zusammenarbeit. Stuttgart: Schäffer-Poeschel.
Rüegg-Stürm, J., Grand, S. (2015). The St. Gallen Management Model. English translation of the fourth generation of the German text. Bern: Haupt Verlag.