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Management versus Leadership

During the pandemic, our revenue streams dried up – literally overnight.

The Covid-19 fairy waltzed in the front door, waved her magic wand, and *poof* our lives were irrevocably changed in a matter of hours.

In theory, as Agile specialists, we’re better prepared for this than others. In practice, it came as much a shock to us as others, and it’s impacted our business to the same degree as the majority of others.

We are presented with the same circumstances as others. Dealt the exact same hand as every other entrepreneur in the world. 

A jack of spades, 2 of clubs, 5 of diamonds and an 8 of hearts. 


It’s quiet enough to hear the Covid-19 house giggling with 4 aces and a couple of jokers up their sleeve.

An Agile Mindset and Culture of Business Agility

What separates success from failure after your team’s post-Armageddon review?

Leadership versus Management.

This is going to be a very, very tough period for managers. If you’re a micro-manager, you just got dealt a worse hand than the entrepreneurs.

You simply cannot walk around people’s living rooms and double-check that they are doing the work exactly the way you want it done.

It is, however, a time for leaders and collective leadership to thrive.

“Teams don’t need tasks. They need purpose!”

– John McFadyen. 

That’s me. Even though it has stylish quotation marks and a different font, I said it.

Teams don’t need tasks. They need purpose!

I repeated it because it’s important.

They also need compassion and understanding in the initial phases of this transition.

People are finding that working remotely from home works incredibly well. They are finding it challenging, however, because they also need to deal with 3 kids and 2 dogs whilst schools are closed, and dog walkers get the year off.

That’s where purpose and vision light the way.

We’re often asked, ‘what does successful Agile look like?’ and whilst every company is unique, it’s almost always about strong leadership that sets a strong, achievable vision with a clear purpose that inspires teams and cultivates high-performance.

This is why we are trying to achieve X. This is why it’s important. Your job is to figure out what needs doing and how best to achieve that. I’m here to support you and aggressively remove impediments.

Simple. Achievable.

What if we aren’t Agile?

If you live on planet Earth and your company delivers something to customers in exchange for money or products. You’re now officially Agile. Congratulations.

You used to work this way. Something disrupted all of that. Now, you need to do it differently.

If you’re leading a small team via Zoom and trying to figure out how to navigate the territory, the best way to start is to focus on crystallising what absolutely must be done this week.

That’s how you define priorities. There’s too much going on. Too many hurdles in the initial phases to map out the goals and objectives for the next 12 months.

Waterfall doesn’t fall over in these circumstances. It evaporates.

What you’re left with is a very clear sense of what needs to be done this week to move ahead with the second most important thing that needs to be done next week. And so forth.

One of the grim realities worth confronting at this time is that 1 out of every 2 people may well fall ill in 2020. In high-value product and service development, it’s worth accepting this as a given.

To combat this, I recommend that your teams work in pairs.

In software teams, we call this the ‘lottery dilemma’. How many people need to win the lottery in order for the work to stop? Who needs to get hit by a truck for the project’s wheels to come off?

If a team member takes ill and requires 6 to 10 weeks to recover, the entire value stream dries up until they return. It’s something you can’t afford, given the economic impact of Covid-19. 

As such, it makes sense to work in pairs to make sure that the work continues. It’s also a great way to build cross-functional skill sets in your teams. 

As you work in pairs, you’re going to naturally grow each other’s skill sets, especially in cases where you may not have experience in doing the work but are paired with a strong player in that sphere.

Welcome to the foundation of strong, successful ‘Agile’ teams — cross-functional skills. You’ve got this.

How are we surviving?

The truth is, we aren’t surviving. We’re thriving. 

In a few weeks, we managed to pivot to online and tap into a global audience for our products and services. How? By focusing on the Why.

Our vision and purpose are to cultivate high-performing Agile organisations that unleash people’s creativity and passion. It’s who we are. It’s what we do.

Covid-19’s impact on our family and friends, neighbourhoods, communities and country heightened that purpose, bringing urgency and priority to what needed doing. Helping companies survive and potentially thrive through a period that is testing many of us way beyond our limits.

Our job is to lead. Our job is to coach. Our job is to teach.

We left the ‘how’ to our team because they’re the best qualified to make that call. We do the best we can, we rely on them to do the best they can.

Each of us. All of us. Get the ‘why’.