Build a Real Management Team

Real development team is already rare, let alone real management team. When talking about real team, I mean that the group has common goal and takes shared responsibility. Usually, management team is not a real team, but a working group. This is indicated by every member having clear individual responsibility. Even though it is claimed that they have common goal, it is mostly the leader who is accountable for it, and other members are mostly responsible for their own parts. This is the traditional organization hierarchy.

As the hierarchy is defined by reporting line, let's look at various settings when we create cross-functional feature team in adopting Scrum.

1. from multiple managers to one manager

As the traditional organization is often based on functions and components. When we move from single functional and component team structure to cross-functional and feature team structure, if original reporting structure remains, members in the same team will report to different managers. Those managers are still responsible for their own functions and components. Even though they are members in management team, they do not take shared responsibility. This is not desirable for team, as the more managers, the more difficult it becomes in alignment.

Reporting line - functional.png

Therefore, the common advice is to change the reporting line and make the whole team report to same manager. Then, those managers become cross-functional managers. However, this does not make them take shared responsibility in management team, as usually they are still responsible for their own teams.

Reporting line - cross-functional.png

2. from one manager to multiple managers

Recently, in my LeSS course, a few participants from same product organization shared that the members in their teams report to multiple managers, but NOT managers for different functions and components. Instead, it was a bit like everybody randomly picking up a manager. It sounded weird at first, then, it revealed an interesting purpose of doing that. They want to build a real management team!

Reporting line - random.png

The rationale is, when any team is not owned by one manager, it would avoid the situation of any manager only responsible for their own teams. Instead, multiple mangers will collectively  ensure the success of all teams. In this setting, any misalignment among managers would become serious impediment towards well-working team. What impressed me was that they made informed choice, with the attitude of experimentation.

This reminded me of my NSN (Nokia Siemens Networks) experience. When I led a department with 100+ people, we had 4 R&D managers, together with me we formed a management team. We put deliberate efforts in building a real team - taking shared responsibility for the whole department goals.

We tried:

  • Managers acted as ScrumMaster for teams who did not directly report to them. See Manager as ScrumMaster paper.
  • Created department initiatives to foster collaboration among R&D managers, especially on removing organizational impediments, continuous improvement, and community of practices.
  • Not cascade down department objectives to next level for R&D groups, but kept it at department level.
  • Instead of me giving the feedback to every manager as part of performance appraisal, we had management team feedback session, everybody giving and receiving feedback in the open.

We did not try having members in one team report to different managers by random. What an interesting experiment, ever though its effect remains to be checked.

I applaud for any attempt in building the real management team, as it is hard, but a lofty goal to seek.

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