Mismanagement Styles in Agile Teams

Posted on August 12th, 2010 in Agile, Management by siddharta || 4 Comments

Ichak Adizes, in his 1976 paper on Mismanagement Styles, identified four roles that a manager needs to play.  A good manager is able to play all four roles (with some roles better than others). A mismanager is only able to play one of the four roles. Based on this, Adizes arrives at various styles of mismanagement. In this post, I’m going to take a look at these mismanagement styles in the context of managing an agile team.

The four roles

According to Adizes, a manager should be

  • A producer: Understand the functional and technical know-how to turn out maximal results
  • An administrator: To implement a system to achieve those results and keep it running
  • An entrepreneur: To initiate new directions whenever opportunities or threats arise
  • An integrator: To harmonize individual goals into group goals and individual results into group results

When a manager only performs one of these roles, mismanagement results.

Mismanagement Style #1: The loner

The loner is a manager who is only a producer. The loner is very industrious and knowledgeable, but his main fault is the compulsion to do everything himself. He does not trust anyone else to do anything.

You sometimes see the loner in an agile team. This person is experienced but is the typical solo programmer. He has picked up all the difficult tasks for himself. He doesn’t have time to help others in the team get up to speed. A common complaint of his is that the rest of the team is dragging him down. The loner is often overburdened. Tasks and features are only half done because he doesn’t have the time to do them all.

The micromanaging PM also falls into this category. The micromanager does not trust anyone else to get something done unless they are involved in the task.

Mismanagement Style #2: The bureaucrat

The bureaucrat is a full time administrator, unable to do anything else. The bureaucrat knows the standard operating procedures by heart, more concerned with how things are done rather than what is done. He considers himself the guardian of the system, and primary commitment is implementation of a plan, regardless of its wisdom.

Sometimes the ScrumMaster does down this line. Everything must be done exactly by the book, no matter the results. If results are poor, the result is more procedures and more bureaucracy. Compliance is his favourite word. If the organization has a process group, then they can end up becoming bureaucrats too.

Mismanagement Style #3: The crisis maker

The crisis maker is a manager who is exclusively an innovator. The crisis maker charges ahead at all opportunities simultaneously. Every day it is a new idea on the horizon, even before the old idea has been implemented. The crisis maker changes direction constantly, without making progress anywhere.

Often times stakeholders can become crisis makers for the team. Everyday is a new “simple feature” to be implemented. Even before it is out in production comes another new direction, and another. Meanwhile the project has made no progress towards its goals, only a bunch of half implemented features lie on the floor.

Mismanagement Style #4: The superfollower

The superfollower is great at bringing together people, but nothing else. There is nothing he wants to achieve except the role of conflict resolver. The superfollower has no ideas of his own, and is unable to ensure that ideas get executed upon.

The superfollower is somewhat rare in agile teams. I’ve not seen anyone who really fits into this category. Superfollowers are more common higher up in management where initiatives cut across department boundaries. Have you seen this archetype in your agile teams?


Have you seen these mismanagement styles in agile teams? Put your experiences in the comments below.

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4 Responses to “Mismanagement Styles in Agile Teams”

  1. toolsforagile Says:

    [New Post] Mismanagement Styles in Agile Teams – http://toolsforagile.com/blog/archives/4… #agile

  2. labsji Says:

    RT @silvercatalyst: [New Post] Mismanagement Styles in Agile Teams – http://toolsforagile.com/blog/archives/4… #agile

  3. scott Says:

    One important thing to note, is that Dr. Adizes acknowledges that performing all 4 roles (within a single individual) is impossible.

    In his book, The Ideal Executive (http://www.amazon.com/Ideal-Executive-Leadership-Trilogy/dp/0937120022/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1281720096&sr=8-1), he begins his premise by stating that the perfect manager (capable of excelling at all 4 roles) does not exist.

    Each role is in conflict with eachother. For this reason, a complementary team of styles is necessary for good management.

  4. siddharta Says:

    Thanks Scott for making that point. You are absolutely correct. And although a single person cannot excel in all four roles, they should have a little ability in all four, and excel in one or two.

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