Tuesday, August 29, 2017

SPaMCast Interview: Leading great organizations

Jeff, how do you define great leadership? ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast 

[Editor's Note: Over the coming weeks, this CMMI Appraiser will be sharing excerpts from a recent conversation with Tom Cagley on the Software Process and Measurement Cast (SPaMCast) about leadership, and whether leadership is more or less important in today’s Agile world. Listen to the full interview at SPaMCast 456.]


Earlier in my career, I spent about a decade at Ernst and Young. If you work for a firm like that, you are always interested in becoming a partner, and I remember going through some interviews to become a partner. I was at the very final stages in that process, and some of the senior partners asked me, “What do you think it takes to lead great organizations?”

I spoke at some length about inspiration, leading people, getting the best out of people, putting people in a situation where they are empowered to do the right thing, without you hovering over them, giving them tasks and measuring them every minute. I could tell at the end of my answer that, if I hadn’t failed the interview, I had come close to it! Because what they were apparently looking for was P&L, metrics, cash flow, etc. Of course, these things are very important.

They asked, “What do you think is the number one thing to make leadership successful?”

I said, “You can increase profitability and customer satisfaction more by leading people to lead themselves, than you can by making sure utilization is as high as it can be.”

I really believe that. I think leadership is less about accounting numbers and managing the administration and the bureaucracy than it is about motivating people so that they don’t need leadership as much.

As you know, I’m very interested in self-organization, and a lot of the methods that are out there. I see this every day with some of the clients that I've worked with: Their leadership isn’t leading. They are some great managers, some great administrators, and some great people that are doing great things with financials far beyond anything that I’m capable of, but in terms of actually leading people so that they don’t need day-to-day leadership? There is very little of that going on. That’s something that I’m the most passionate about.

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I hope my readers have enjoyed this segment of my interview with Tom Cagley on SPaMCast #456. We'll be talking more about leadership, and whether leadership is more or less important in today’s Agile world, in the next segment. Please check back soon.

And if you're interested in a deeper dive into learning about Agile Leadership, you are invited to join me and other agile leaders at The 2017 Agile Leadership Summit, hosted by AgileCxO.org on September 22nd in Washington, DC. I look forward to meeting many of you in person for the first time!

Here's how to register for The 2017 Agile Leadership Summit.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Visit www.broadswordsolutions.com for more information about engineering strategy, performance innovation, software process improvement and running a successful CMMI program.

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