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I am an agile delivery manager, and quite good at what I do.

Recently switched roles, and now working in a larger organisation. Upon joining my new company I have made an instant impact and slowly helping senior management transform the organisation into a more agile environment. My work is starting to pave the way for a much more collaborative, transparent environment where teams are becoming self organised in an efficient way. This in turn has lead to being continuously praised by them, my reputation has also grown in such a short period of time to the point that people would like me to be the delivery manager on their projects or come to me for advise on how to improve ways of working.

Problem, some other delivery managers are acting passive aggressively. For example, this week I was tasked with running another delivery managers sprint by snr management who want me to understand that project's delivery process in case of sickness etc Their attitude upon returning from leave was to withhold information with regards to processes, become assertive at stand ups etc. when they were given clear instructions by snr management to let me finish the sprint.

We have a retrospective tomorrow, I have identified many bottlenecks, passive aggressive delivery manager doesn't want me to lead it. Snr management still do. They seem to be very protective of their project. I have tried to mitigate the situation by letting them know that I am happy to run the retrospective with them

Questions:

  • What is the best way to handle these type of characters? I try to be diplomatic, is this the correct approach?

  • How do you get them on your side generally? It is frustrating for me to see this, since I would prefer to learn and work together as opposed to compete.

  • Senior management made you join another team's sprint against that team's wishes? – Erik Feb 15 '18 at 19:32
  • Other delivery manager was on leave, I had to start it and an email was sent informing them that I would be. The team was happy for me to start that sprint, to the point that they now want me to do it full time. – bobo2000 Feb 15 '18 at 19:33
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    Have you approached your boss about this for some insight? It sounds like you're in the middle of something that neither side seems to be aware of, a breakdown of communication on what is expected going forward. – SiXandSeven8ths Feb 15 '18 at 20:28
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    I'm glad to hear things seem to have turned around some since this question: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/105623/… – Lumberjack Feb 15 '18 at 21:45
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    This comment thread has been pruned as some less than kind and far from constructive things were said here. I'd like to remind everyone of our Be Nice policy. Please refrain from posting (partial) answers in comments, especially if you want to give short-sighted or professionally harmful advice, whether you are being facetious or not. Answers to the question can be posted below; please preserve the comment space for its intended purpose. – Lilienthal Feb 16 '18 at 16:36
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It's really, really common in software that you have not-very-competent staff in a role R.

When someone arrives who is competent at role R, it inevitably happens that

  1. management sensibly tells new person to take over projects from the not-very-competent folks
  2. the not-very-competent folks get possessive, obstructive (to try to keep their jobs)

This is completely commonplace in software.

(Remember that in general software is an absolute, total, debacle - the biggest mess in the entire sweep of human activity on the planet. As Steve Jobs pointed out, the overwhelming majority of folks who work in software are much less than 10% as useful as the handful of competent ones.)

The two outcomes for the OP depend on the milieu at hand...

  1. If this is the hurly burly of aggressive tech startups, the revealed-as-less-competent folks will get fired in days-month. If so, solution for OP is "be polite". Do nothing. No need to complain etc.

  2. If this is the proverbial "government department", nobody will ever be removed. In that case it is very unlikely you will win the office politics. I would say (assuming you want to stay there) (why? maybe just go somewhere else) just "take what you can" out of it, be polite to everyone; you simply won't change things so I'd say don't waste the energy trying.

Again this is such standard procedure in software that it's, really, a many-times duplicate question.

So the two solutions to the problem at hand, (A) if in an aggressive milieu, do nothing and wait a few weeks; (B) if in a stodgy milieu, realize the situation will not change, so simply "take it to the bank with a smile" or if you wish, just go elsewhere.

One crowdsourced opinion!

Questions: What is the best way to handle these type of characters? I try to be diplomatic, is this the correct approach?

Yes. They will never suddenly "be competent". So just "smile all the way to the bank" and have the patience of Job. Be polite, firm and repetitive. "Hmm, Steve really needs me to get the XYZ from you, do you have a minute now?"

How do you get them on your side generally?

This will never, ever happen. Be aware that they are about to lose their livelihood because of you (!)

Enjoy the job/contract in question (for as long as it lasts, or you want to). You will never "affect change".

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    The thing is, the exact opposite is also quite common: developers who know how to do their jobs, and management-fad-chasing suits that meddle in things they don’t understand. The two cases can be hard to distinguish, depending on which side of the desk you’re on. – Ernest Friedman-Hill Feb 15 '18 at 21:23
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    Throwing around accusations of incompetence is how a lot of office politics start in the first place. This answer is good except for the first 2 paragraphs that perpetuate the mentality of comparing yourself to your coworkers. If you go around with the mentality that you're better than 90% of all software employees, I promise you that office politics will cloud you like smog. If you remove those first 2 paragraphs, you have my upvote. – Clay07g Feb 15 '18 at 21:24
  • @ErnestFriedman-Hill Probably the reason why I’m good at my job is because I let the Devs do their job. Unlike some of the other delivery managers, I always build my delivery processes around the devs needs and rarely interfere with technical decisions (unless needed). Where I find many of them need help is on how to be more organised. That is what sets me apart from my peers. – bobo2000 Feb 19 '18 at 17:38
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In a situation like this I would inform my sr manager about the situation. No need to make this a blaming game more than absolutely necessary to get the point across.

Simply lay down the facts as is: you were given direction (by them) to do XYZ. You are trying to effectively accomplish that in these ways. You are running into challenges ABC, which are interfering with your ability to get the job done. You tried to address this directly but no luck so far. You feel this would be best handled at a higher level.

Just say it like it is, with objective evidence of your efforts and issues you are encountering.

Only provide suggestions if sr mgr asks you for them, otherwise let them figure out how to handle.

At that point you have done your best and have (rightly) shifted the responsibility higher up to someone who has more power to resolve and allow progress to happen.

Granted, sr mgrs like to hear only good news and here you are bringing a bit of a problem to them. However, the mitigating factor in your favor is that you have tried to resolve the issue on your own, and are only raising it as a result of unsuccessful attempts to get past it. Good luck!

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So the situation: There are several delivery managers. You are new to the job, and both you and your management feel that you are doing rather well. You did one sprint for another delivery manager, and that team is really happy with you. So is your management. The other delivery manager is not happy at all.

That manager is in trouble. He can try to continue the way he does, which may not be for a long time. Or he can try to learn from you, which would be a good idea for him.

For you, it's not really a problem. You shouldn't do anything to make enemies, and you can offer your help. You can mention to him that the sprint worked well, his team is happy, and the management is happy. If he doesn't want to listen to you, that's up to him. Tell your management objectively what is happening. If he wants to learn from you, tell your management, and the situation should change in a way beneficial for everyone.

  • I don’t think this delivery manager is in trouble, she is just extremely competitive, for example there was once a conversation where the team who’s sprint I just ran were half jokingly saying ‘you should be our scrum master’, she then responds with ‘why, I’m better than him’. This other delivery manager annoys me, doesn’t seem to understand that I’d rather work with her than compete. – bobo2000 Feb 19 '18 at 17:14

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