ATLANTA — You can’t expect good performance from your employees if you are practicing bad management, according to Jurgen Appelo, CEO of the business network Happy Melly and cofounder of Agile Lean Europe. Appelo kicked off the Agile 2016 conference here with tips from his new book on how to manage for happiness.
According to Appelo, this topic is near and dear to his heart because coming from a software engineering background, he was taught how to be a great programmer, not how to be a great manager.
“I had no idea how to manage people. I only knew how to manage computers,” he said. “To me, developers were computers on legs with hair.”
Because of his background, he managed people like they were machines, and that resulted in a lot of collapsed businesses, explained Appelo. What he found through his trials and tribulations is that there is no Holy Grail to management, but there are at least seven important silver bullets managers can follow: build for meaning, innovate management, accelerate learning, run experiments, embrace playfulness, nurture happiness, and manage the system.
“Innovate management and hopefully we build more meaningful product and services,” said Appelo. “The smallest changes can have huge effect.”
But because we are in an agile world today, and most teams are encouraged to be self-organizing, there is this idea that management is no longer necessary.
“There is a lot of bad management out there for sure, but no management is not the proper alternative,” said Appelo.
The word management comes from the Italian word maneggiare, which means to lead or handle horses, and a fully self-organizing team without a manager is a wild horse, Appelo explained. “I am not going to sit on a wild horse,” he said. “We need something to some extent constrain the horse within a large area that is self-organizing. We have to delegate and empower, but come up with a couple of restrictions.”
To do that, managers need to come up with certain levels of freedoms or constraints on how they are going to handle different situations, said Appelo. Those levels include:
- Tell: They make a decision, they explain the motivation behind the decision, and don’t have a discussion about it.
- Sell: They make a decision and try to sell it to the team, but in the end that is the final decision.
- Consult: They ask for input first, take that into consideration and try to make a decision that respects all opinions.
- Agree: They talk to the entire team and try to reach a consensus about the decision
- Advice: They offer their opinion and hope their team listens to their advice, but in the end it is their decision
- Inquire: They give their team the freedom to make their own decisions, but want to be informed about any decisions they make.
- Delegate: They leave the decision to the team, and don’t want to know about the decision.
For example: “Consult” or “advice” could be about what tool the team should use; “inquire” could be about what time the team takes lunch; and “tell” could be in regards to office hours.
According to Appelo, these levels of management clarify to the “horse” where the fence is.
Managers should also have a feedback cycle in place, according to Appelo. For example, Volkswagen stated that its company values were based on sustainability and responsibility, which proved to be untrue when they had to recall cars for cheating on emission tests. Appelo explained that managers need to have a close feedback loop to ensure their employees are happy, and to find areas that they can improve.
“If there is something bad happening in the company and managers don’t intervene, then this will be the baseline of your culture. Everything else will grow on top of that,” he said.
But happiness doesn’t only have to come from managers. Appelo left the attendees with his 12 steps of happiness in order to help improve their lives at home and at work: 1. Thank someone. 2. Give something to others. 3. Help someone. 4. Eat well. 5. Exercise. 6. Rest. 7. Experience new things. 8. Hike outdoors. 9. Meditate. 10. Socialize. 11. Aim for a goal. 12. Smile.
“Happiness is not an outcome, it is a decision. It is not a destination, it is a path that you can decide to take everyday,” he said.
No matter how you get to that happiness, in the end Appelo explained that the success of a company or business does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.