The Three Jobs of Agile Management (Part 2)
Tip 2: Use the jobs and the two sides to identify areas that may be out of balance in your organization.
As an example, I’ll give you an outside view of Tesla motors. Full disclaimer – I’m a shareholder and a student of Tesla, but I have no insider information so take it with a huge grain of salt – I could be way off base. I use it as an example that has some wide awareness due to CEO Elon Musk’s occasional openness about the goings-on at the company.
Tesla under Elon Musk’s leadership is particularly good at the objective side of the three jobs.
Clarity: Musk creates clarity of the highest priorities for the business and the strategic steps they’ll take to get there. Check out this blog post Musk wrote in August of 2006, where he basically lays out the next 10-15 years of strategy for the company. For reference, he wrote this post right after announcing the prototype of the first car, the Roadster. On the human side, Musk is also great at describing a compelling purpose, accelerating the mass-market adoption of sustainable transportation. The same blog post talks about the social impact the company has and wants to have. I gave them a slightly lower rating here, since Tesla does not seem to do a great job of taking care of their employees, and that’s one aspect of Clarity from a human side.
Capability: Tesla once again shines in the job of increasing capability on the objective side, which includes attracting and growing world-class technical skills and acquiring the resources necessary to succeed. On the human side, we give them their lowest score. Musk’s own leadership development and self-awareness seem from the outside to be highly reactive and ego-driven, so it seems unlikely that he’s creating a culture of high self-awareness and personal growth.
Improve the System: Finally, on the Improve the System job, Tesla has regularly gone all out to create greater efficiencies and innovations in their objective systems, from manufacturing processes to building out the supercharger network to their approach to sales that is revolutionary in the auto industry (and catching up to the rest of the e-commerce world). On the human side, we do see the outcome of people volunteering creativity and energy to solve problems and make a positive impact, so you might make an argument to score them very high here. However, it turns out that nearly all of the engagement is driven by alignment to purpose and other factors like being part of an innovative company. Other effective tools in this space like creating autonomy, psychological safety, and balance in life seem from the outside to be lacking, so we drop their score.
This paints a picture of a company that is objectively excellent – world-class in many areas. From a human perspective, the purpose is so strong and motivating that they are currently successful. It will be interesting to see if the lack of other factors important to human systems ends up catching up to the company’s effectiveness at some point. It is certainly a potential area of improvement, and I suspect it would increase the long-term resilience of the company. I feel like Musk is frequently very close to some kind of a breakdown. That type of leadership usually results in a simmering pot that will boil over unexpectedly.
How would you rate your team and organization on these jobs? What action could you take to try to create more balance within your sphere of influence? Let’s have a conversation in the comments below.
Download Peter’s Three Jobs of Agile Management PDF for an infographic of the three jobs to help in your Agile management journey.