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Thawing the "Frozen Middle”

Presentation given at Agile 2015 in Washington D.C.

Is working with middle management the bane of your existence? Is middle management preventing progress with your agile adoption? Are the teams you are coaching being stifled by middle management? Or are you a middle manager trapped in the system struggling to break out and make a difference for your organisation? If you answered yes to any of the above questions then this session is for you!
Middle management, also known as the "frozen middle", are often bemoaned as blockers to progress. It never fails to amaze me how often a conversation in a room full of agile coaches will turn to the topic of “what to do about middle management”. Frequently the solutions I hear proposed are along the lines of “work around them” or “get rid of them”. In this session we will explore a different approach. Instead of removing middle management from the picture, how can we harness their energy to lead rather than hinder an agile transition?
In this interactive presentation, Em will share with you what it is like to be part of middle management, help you tap into your empathy by putting yourself in the shoes of middle management and provide you with numerous proven techniques to help managers at any level (frozen or otherwise!) accelerate their transition into agile leaders.

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Thawing the "Frozen Middle”

  1. 1. Em Campbell-Pretty Partner, Context Matters @PrettyAgile Thawing the “Frozen Middle” AGILE 2015 WASHINGTON D.C.
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  6. 6. Silent Brainstorming Thinking about a middle manager you work with (or have worked with in the past) on an agile implementation. •  What are they thinking & feeling about their role in the agile implementation? •  What are they hearing about agile from their executives, their peers and their teams? •  What are the saying about the implementation? What are they doing? (Consider both in public or in private) •  What pain is the agile implementation causing them? •  What do they stand to gain from the agile implementation? Each person should add at least one sticky to every section. EMPATHY MAP INSTRUCTIONS
  7. 7. Photos of the Empathy Maps produced by attendees at this session can be downloaded from: (case sensitive link)
  8. 8. What patterns did you observe?
  9. 9. What surprised you?
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  11. 11. I want you to do Agile I want to be Agile
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  13. 13. Beware wolves in coach’s clothing
  14. 14. ” Those who can read and don’t, are only marginally better off than those who can’t.” -Verne Harnish
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  16. 16. LEAVE THE IVORY TOWER & GO TO THE GEMBA "Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're 1,000 miles from the corn field." — Dwight Eisenhower
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  18. 18. The role of management is to support the people who do the work.
  19. 19. Provide the vision
  20. 20. Create Unity
  21. 21. Train everyone
  22. 22. Fund technical enablers
  23. 23. Improve the system
  24. 24. Develop the next generation of leaders
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  27. 27. “The vulnerability paradox: It's the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I want you to see in me.” - Brene Brown
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  30. 30. •  Find managers who are willing* •  Tap into your empathy •  Address their feelings •  Give them a role to play i.e. supporting the people that do the work •  Help them display vulnerability * Or inspire the unwilling THAWING THE “FROZEN MIDDLE”
  31. 31. “…they are people too, they are just stuck in the system” – Jim Benson on Middle Management
  32. 32. Em Campbell-Pretty Partner, Context Matters @PrettyAgile WANT TO KNOW MORE? Check out my blog: •  Advice for coaches on “dealing with” management: •  Book Clubs at work - Are you serious? •  Creating Unity: •  Train everyone: •  An Agile Team of Agile Leaders: •  Leading Through Vulnerability: •  An Agile Christmas Story: Note: all links are case sensitive