Management is Non-Value-Add activity. Why do we fund it? To create, sustain and improve a Run Time Environment for Value Add activity.

Traditional management is seen as the work of co-ordinating or directing others in a system to achieve best outcome against defined objectives.

Its activities are typically in terms of

  • Making informed decisions
  • Fixing problems
  • Planning and forecasting

Many people who work in traditional management see value and skill in being able to mitigate the waste that is a fundamental part of work. Much effort is spent in firefighting and expediting work through the value stream. This is so common that it is often used as the defining characteristic of management work, even in experienced Agile teams. In these organisations, leaders and managers are rewarded for hiding problems by circumvention or buffering that should be exposed to enable effective problem solving. The biggest problem is the view that there are no problems.

In a Lean knowledge work enterprise, not only is such effort to be made redundant, it is in itself a cause of much waste and blocks improvement. In this kind of organisation, management is a reserved role that does not directly contribute to the value of an enterprise, and so must justify its existence by acting as a lever or catalyst, making direct value creators (those doing the actual work of the organisation) more effective.

Management therefore has two key roles in an existing organisational unit:

  1. Owning the improvement of the organizational unit under management, on behalf of the wider organization, using the full intellectual capability of that unit
  2. Serving those who create value by isolating them from all wasteful activity imposed by the wider organization

A perfect application of (1) would entirely remove the need for (2), but that this is a True North that is the asymptote on the improvement graph, ever to be approached, but never to be reached.

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Martin Burns

Transformation Consultant at CA Inc (formerly Rally)
Previously: Leader of software delivery portfolios in large scale orgs.
Specialism: Transforming complex delivery organisations to be more Lean/Agile.
Mindset: Continuous Improvement Obsessive
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