Agile Thinking

Leave Work Unassigned and See Who Steps Forward

You can feel it that your team members have more untapped potential in them, so how can you draw it out? In a post at his blog, Mike Cohn suggests that the most effective method could be to just let people volunteer for more work. This sounds like a pretty good deal all around, huh?

Filling the Void

Once upon a time, a younger then-programmer Cohn asked his boss what he had to do to become a project manager. The boss responded, “When you start acting like a manager, I’ll make you a manager.” The problem with that answer as Cohn sees it is that there were not any good opportunities to act like a manager. After all, he as a programmer already worked under managers; trying to act like a manager himself would only undermine their authority.

Thus, Cohn recommends consciously allowing for vacuums to form in the agile organization, with the intention that the right skilled individuals will step up to fill the void. This can be as simple as pointing out to teams that the vacuum exists at all and waiting to see how they react:

As an example, many years ago, I was working as a VP of software development. Some of the first XP teams in that company discovered the benefits of continuous integration, and I was excited to spread this practice across the department. I could have appointed someone to make that happen.

Instead, at the next department meeting, I talked about how impressed I was with what those teams had done, and how it was going to be important for us to spread that good practice to other teams. Without explicitly saying so, I let it be known that this was something people could work on.

In cases such as these, it could be that the best person for the job is the one who just goes out and does it out of pure, driven passion. And again, everyone is happy! You can read the original post here: https://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/blog/leave-work-unassigned-and-see-who-steps-forward

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