A Metaphor for Lean Management

The Agile Manifesto ignores management – not mentioning it once. Management has slowly been acknowledged by Agilists as being important – but almost always with the phrase “servant leader.”

This is only partially accurate. Servant implies someone is being served and this is often understood to mean their teams. But managers are not really serving their teams directly. They are serving the business. Their job is to make sure their teams have the right environment to get their job done, to help grow their teams and to give them acknowledgement.

I think a good metaphor for Lean management is curling. Curling is the sport where a person pushes a ‘stone’ with a handle on it trying to get to a specific spot. Two sweepers go in front of the stone to both clear the path and slightly melt the ice with their brooms. Think of these as the managers.

The person who “throws” the stone can be thought of as the team. They are the ones getting the job done, but with the assistance of management.

Everyone works together to ‘serve’ the customers of the business. Managers don’t manage their teams. They trust them to get their job done and they work with them so that they can do it better.

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