GOTO Chicago 2017

May 4, 2017

Creating and Steering Managerless Teams

Brief Summary In this handson workshop, participants will dissect the traditional roles of management, and how these roles can be distributed in a managerless team. Through roleplaying exercises, we will address how team coordination and personnel issues can be addressed in a managerless process. Though no manager exists, there are levers to steer such organizations toward business success.

Full Abstract This workshop focuses on creating and motivating an organization to address today’s new challenges. We are solving different problems today versus the last couple of decades: Fuzzy problems (including recommendations, financial markets, and even online advertising). These Complex problems (per Dave Snowden’s Cynefin model) defy upfront analysis. Rather, competitive advantage goes to the Agile organization that can aggressively deploy ideas and measure results in real time.

Traditional organizations are designed to solve problems with welldefined solutions, even if the problem demands seasoned experts. Roles and processes move the knowledge of the experts into the implementation. But when experts don’t exist, as in fuzzy problems, implementations with these organizations predictably fail, particularly against competition working without these constraints.

Thus for the fuzzy problems, roles and processes need to be optimized for continuous deployment of ideas, pumping the ones that are working, and idling the ones that don’t. Managerless processes are particularly adept addressing the fuzzy problems.

First in a teambased Exercise we will explore the traditional roles of managers. We label (rename) these roles, and suggest who else could take on that responsibility within the teams. We compare that to what actually has been done with clients adopting managerless processes.

Then we break into project teams, each with a specific goal. Through roleplaying in this environment, we explore the challenges faced by managerless teams:

  • Absorbing roles normally associated with management.
  • Coordination of technologies among teams when dedicated, hierarchical leadership is missing
  • Crossteam delivery responsibilities

Again, we will compare the learnings from these simulations with actions that managerless teams have taken.

As a class, we propose practices (organizational and process) from these experiences that enable an effective managerless organization. We compare / contrast these practices to those we have experienced to date in industry.

Finally, we wrapup By looking at transition strategies from a traditional structure to a managerless structure, including radical, hybrid, or gradual approaches.

Target Audience Developers, team leads, and managers. Traditional companies facing startup pressures will discover coping strategies. Startup companies will discover organization actions they should avoid to continue early success.

Premier and Reactions This workshop has not been held at any conference yet.

Fred George
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