A lot of conflict in the workplace is caused by different expectations regarding the nature of the work. And agilists may not even be helping - they might just make it worse!
|The Stacey Matrix - annotated with character traits.|
Character traits per domain
Simple work gives confidence to people who excel at tasks that others may consider "chores". Although workplace automation has abolished a lot of simple work, there are still areas where well-defined, routine processes are commonplace. The most important characteristic to success in this domain is diligence - getting stuff done properly.
Complicated work rely on getting multiple pieces of work executed correctly and in proper sequence. This requires good coordination - putting multiple pieces of the puzzle together in the most effective way.
Complex work means that there is no one known best way of doing things, and there is no one specific goal to attain, either. Even though most of today's knowledge work occurs in this domain, people easily get irritated when they "just don't know" and still need to product results. The essential trait here is creativity - coming up with a solution in the face of the unknown.
Chaotic work occurs when there is no clear-cut way of doing things. Many people feel challenged working under such conditions, as the constant barrage of new information often invalidates former achievements. Resilience and a high amount of flexibility helps - changing direction whenever it makes sense!
The problem with "Projects"The complex and chaotic domain are the places where projects crumble: The base assumptions of the project fall apart as soon as people start doing work. The coordinative ability of the Project Manager are of little help when the tasks to coordinate aren't helping achieve meaningful goals. Likewise, the most diligent worker isn't helping the company when the work isn't even going in the right direction.
It's extremely difficult to run a development project with the premise that project management is merely the meta-task of coordinating development tasks, as nothing would need to be developed if everything was clear to begin with.
A lack of flexibility often causes projects to fail in a sense that the outcome isn't needed when the project is done.
Likewise, a lack of creativity often causes projects to turn Red - objectives can't be met by following the plan. In unfortunate cases, the only creativity on a project team might be the project manager's ability to find excuses for the poor outcome.
Unless projects have people who exhibit the flexibility to deal with new information - and the creativity to do without proper processes or still do something useful when goals become invalid - the project is in trouble.
The problem with "Agile""Agile" dogma often seems to presume that all work requires flexbility, and that all workers are flexible.
Both premises are invalid. Not only are flexible, creative workers a rarity rather than a commodity - working in this domain should be an exception rather than the norm.
Creativity is often needed to pull unknown stuff into an area where slices of known work can be coordinated and executed, but that work still needs to get done.
Highly flexible people often enjoy the streaks of chaos that allows them to innovate - and they may not enjoy the grind and routine of doing the base work.
In a healthy team, there has to be a place for people who are diligent, for those who are good at coordinating stuff, for those who are creative - and for those who enjoy the whimsiness of the Unknown. Put together, such a team can be extremely effective.
SummaryWe need to respect that not everyone is creative and that some prefer routine - and we need to respect those who can't bear routine work and their drive for change. And we are well advised to neither compare nor mix up such work: it's just too different.
Try discovering where people see their favorite work and help them find their place accordingly.
Avoid creating a culture where people enjoying only one type of work feel left behind. It might create a dangerous monoculture!