Agile start-up management requires trust, motivation and transparency!

Day 18. December 2014 posted Stanislava Vabšek

The times of strict hierarchy, the carrot and stick approach, and controlling and commanding employees are over! Replace them with trust, motivation, delegation, transparent work and self-organised development teams, said Voranc Kutnik, an agile enthusiast, coach and advisor from company Agilspot. This was the emphasis of the 5th educational module of the accelerator Start:up Geek House on the topic of building a lean organisation and agile management.

In the society of knowledge, global competition and a turbulent business environment, a combination of lean entrepreneurship and agile management is the only right approach to launching and building a start-up company. Classical management methods or the so-called Management 1.0, based on orders and control, actually didn’t change all that much in a hundred years since the first Ford’s factories, but is completely unsuitable and useless for managing start-up teams of highly trained experts.

Theory X vs theory Y

“The right way of leading, or the so-called Management 3.0, joins several lean and agile approaches, such as Lean Startup, Business Model Canvas, Scrum, Kanban and Delivering Happiness. The easiest way to illustrate the main difference between Management 3.0 and Management 1.0 is by comparing theories X and Y. Management 1.0 is actually similar to theory X, which says that people are lazy, unmotivated and that you have to constantly control them, order them around and force them to work by using the carrot and stick approach. Management 3.0, akin to theory Y according to which we respect individuals in teams, treat them as unique and precious because we realize that people like to work, are motivated and wish to contribute to solving more complicated tasks,” explained Kutnik at the beginning.


Put individuals before processes

All the above-mentioned lean and agile approaches, joined under “one roof” by Management 3.0, aim for the same goal – productive, motivated and innovative individuals and teams. They’re based on the principles of inclusion and collaboration, constant improvements of one’s work and effectively satisfying customers’ needs. The manifesto of agile software development also consists of four basic values that take the before-mentioned principles into account:

  1. We put individuals and their interactions before processes and tools
  2. We put working software before the all-encompassing documentation
  3. Collaborating with the client is more important than contractual negotiations
  4. Responding to changes is more important than strictly following plans. 


Help teams self-organize

The task of a contemporary manager, including a start-up CEO, is radically changing in line with these principles. “The word control has to be replaced with motivating, coaching, exciting… Especially when it comes to teams of developers, you have to bear in mind that it’s a complex adaptable system that’s not orderly and completely predictable.  You also can’t always have it truly under control. Instead, you should motivate team members and help them self-organize as well as possible and do their jobs well,” stresses Kutnik.

Make a circle of four types of trust

Besides encouraging self-organisation and choosing quality members for agile teams, trust is also a very important element for start-up CEOs. “Trust your people and have them know that you trust them. If nothing else, the Pygmalion effect should convince you into this, the self-fulfilling prophecy that claims that the thing you believe in or think about your people will come true. You deserve their trust – be consistent, clear and transparent with how you act towards them. Help people trust each other. And last but not least – trust yourself,” is how the lecturer described the concluded circle of four types of trust.

Transparency is appreciated by employees as well as customers

Besides trust and self-organisation, transparency in business operations is key to undisturbed workflow according to lean and agile methodologies. For example Scrum, as the most widespread method of agile management, has transparency already built into its concept. It’s appreciated by the employees as well as customers even, or especially, in cases when development hits speedbumps, gets off the right path and everything isn’t yet done like it should be. Once we admit our mistakes, we can eliminate and correct them, otherwise we just entangle and damage our working relationships.

Empowerment and delegation

Another important principle of agile management is the empowerment of team members and effective delegation. Kutnik states 7 levels of delegating as one of the recommended approaches that should be, of course, adapted to actual circumstances:
  1. Communication: make the decision as the CEO and notify your employees
  2. Selling: convince your employees that the decision is a good one
  3. Consultation: before you make a decision, consult with your team
  4. Agreement: make a decision that you all agree with together with your team
  5. Guidance: influence a decision that your team has made
  6. Enquiry: after the team has made a decision, get feedback
  7. Delegation: you don’t use any of the approaches above to influence a decision which has been entirely made by the team. 

Learning on one’s mistakes and clear values

“When you are building a lean and agile company, you should also be aware of the importance of learning on one’s mistakes, experimenting, fluent, clear and transparent communication, and constant encouragement of collaboration. Give your teams the option of developing their own identity, for example by choosing their own name or nickname, logo, avatars etc., while at the same time be careful that you clearly communicate your company’s values to your employees,” advises Kutnik.

The meaning of “T-shaped” individuals

At the end, the speaker at this module gave useful advice for employing people. “Besides being a specialist in their field, the person should also be open and far-reaching enough to be able to blend into a team, talk to others, help and share their knowledge and experiences,” stresses Kutnik. These are the so-called “T-shaped people” who can be crucially important for the success of agile teams.



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Izvedba: Mojdenar IT d.o.o.