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Jurgen Appelo calls himself a creative networker. But sometimes he's a writer, speaker, trainer, entrepreneur, illustrator, manager, blogger, reader, dreamer, leader, freethinker, or… Dutch guy. Since 2008 Jurgen writes a popular blog at www.noop.nl, covering the creative economy, agile management, and personal development. He is the author of the book Management 3.0, which describes the role of the manager in agile organizations. And he wrote the little book How to Change the World, which describes a supermodel for change management. Jurgen is CEO of the business network Happy Melly, and co-founder of the Agile Lean Europe network and the Stoos Network. He is also a speaker who is regularly invited to talk at business seminars and conferences around the world. After studying Software Engineering at the Delft University of Technology, and earning his Master’s degree in 1994, Jurgen Appelo has busied himself starting up and leading a variety of Dutch businesses, always in the position of team leader, manager, or executive. Jurgen has experience in leading a horde of 100 software developers, development managers, project managers, business consultants, service managers, and kangaroos, some of which he hired accidentally. Nowadays he works full-time managing the Happy Melly ecosystem, developing innovative courseware, books, and other types of original content. But sometimes Jurgen puts it all aside to spend time on his ever-growing collection of science fiction and fantasy literature, which he stacks in a self-designed book case. It is 4 meters high. Jurgen lives in Rotterdam (The Netherlands) -- and in Brussels (Belgium) -- with his partner Raoul. He has two kids, and an imaginary hamster called George. Jurgen has posted 145 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Delegation Requires Boundaries

04.05.2013
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The origin of the word management is from Italian, meaning “taking care of horses”.

All I know about horses is what I picked up from fantasy literature. I know they often have saddles, bridles, spurs, bits, shoes (not Italian), and long beautiful manes that always blow the right way when warriors need to stab an enemy to death. The ones who just go and sit on a wild horse and yell “yee-haw!” are usually dead before page 50.

The caretaking of horses includes giving direction and setting boundaries. Quite often, when managers delegate work to teams they don’t give them clear boundaries of authority. By trial and error teams need to find out what they can and cannot do, usually incurring some emotional damage along the way. This was described by Donald Reinertsen as the “discovery of invisible electric fences” [Reinertsen, Managing the Design Factory p.107]. Repeatedly running into an electric fence is not only a waste of time and resources, but it also kills motivation, and it ruins the coat of the horse. With no idea of what the invisible boundaries are around it, the horse will prefer to stand still and just eat some biscuits.

Reinertsen suggests creating a list of key decision areas to address this problem. The list can include things like “Working hours”, “Key technologies”, “Product design”, and “Team membership”. A manager should make it perfectly clear what the team’s authority level is for each key decision area in this list. When the horse can actually see the fence, there will be less fear and pain. And the farther away the fence, the more the horse will enjoy its territory.

It also works the other way around, because of the reflexive relationship of responsibility and accountability. A team usually delegates work to management, such as “Rewards and remuneration”, “Business partnerships”, “Market strategy”, and “Parking space”. The horse is not required to simply accept any kind of boundaries, constraints, and abuse.

Nature gave the horse strong teeth and hind legs for a reason.

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Jurgen Appelo.

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