When management clicks

As a manager, I hear about things that are interesting and things that probably need changing.

“We want to do three projects but only have two teams.”
“The next production release is held up by this one task that needs seven people to agree on a minor but complicated detail.”
“The backend team has to spend the next week upgrading dependencies to meet new security requirements from the operations team.”

Lots of work to do there. Eyes bigger than stomachs, weird coordination issues, past decisions piling up and haunting us all at once. Assembling these data points into a theory of how the organization works, without falling victim to us-vs-them narratives and cynicism, is an essential challenge of management.

On the other hand, I hear things that are categorically good.

“Alice has saved us a ton of work this week.”
“Bob did fantastic work on this product and we’re going to ship early.”
“Carol stepped up and coordinated everyone when the project lead had to take a few sick days.”

In my few years of leading and managing teams, these are the best kinds of things to hear. Something about people is working here. They’re turning accountability for their work into positive outcomes.

Stacking repeated positive outcomes yields trust in people and teams. That yields agency to tackle future projects in creative, potentially better ways. That usually leads to even more positive outcomes. Even more importantly, it makes for teammates who are excited and satisfied by their work.

Bringing teams together across an organization to make positive outcomes for people who are excited about their work: that’s when management feels like it is clicking.

Adam Keys @therealadam