Continuing with the same topic that I started, let’s consider one last scenario: He was the head of product development, and he never outright said no to agile. He thought agile is a development thing, nothing to do with him. So, if it would help development, sure. He even gave a budget to train the teams and to put new infrastructure like Continuous Integration servers in place. However, his way of management never changed. He still wanted to get his information a certain way, he still managed by fear. He loved to say, “a little competition does the teams good” or “it should scare the teams that they could be fired if they don’t do a good job”. His thinking was: As long as things are done quickly, in an inexpensive way, then it’s fine. It doesn’t matter how things are actually done. So, it can be done by an army of droids churning out sausages for all he cares.
Have you ever experienced this kind of passive aggressive behavior from your executive? It’s not an outright no. How do you and the rest of the company perceive and react to that type of behavior? Do you wonder why they act that way? As I mentioned before, these questions are important steps to figure out how to engage with the executives and even change their resistance to endorsement and active involvement.
For this company, there are 2 stages of reactions.
- In the beginning, people were reluctant, but because the Executive Vice President (EVP) spent money on training, and infrastructure like CI servers, people thought he was supportive of agile and that they had to do it.
- Over time, when the teams did not see their EVP and CEO change, they still wanted status the way they wanted it, they still managed by fear, they still motivated people with threats of potential firing, the teams became jaded and sarcastic. They realized that senior management didn’t care about the workers, regardless of what they said about company value and culture. In fact, when HR sent out employee surveys, the teams from various offices made it a game and conspired on how to give the best answers without looking like they colluded.
So, why would an executive behave this way?
We mentioned power, status and empire building before. Those still apply regardless of ethnicity, nationality or geography. We also discussed that it’s what they are conditioned to do. It’s what the schools taught them, and it’s what their predecessors did. They are to focus on competition instead of collaboration. They may also be too long in the game to understand the new world. They are stuck in the old world of structure and command. It’s hard to change strong fixed mindsets and personalities of those who think they know better, especially if things have worked well to date.
Before we figure out a solution, I’d like to hear from you. Have you experienced this scenario before? Do you agree with my assessment of why executives would behave that way? Drop me a note below.
Also, join me and my colleagues in the UK and US on October 29, as we share our stories about resistance to agile that comes from senior executives. This is an encore edition. Are we going to find the problems divergent across the pond, or are they ubiquitous? Would we be able to find the same solutions to the senior management resistance problem? Hope to hear your thoughts live.