Teamwork in a Command and Control Enviornment?

One of the many myths that seem to be promulgated by Agilists is that Teamwork cannot flourish in a Command and Control Environment.

OK, what about Football teams? That is a command and control environment. Plenty of teamwork there!

Baseball? Ditto. Basketball? Ditto.

How about the Army? Most GI’s are amazingly commited to their team, their squad, their leaders, and their country. And vice versa. Command and control? You betcha!

Police forces? Same.

People can and do work as teams, in a Command and Control environment, and have for centuries. It just requires good leadership and management.

Interestingly enough, these same organizations eschew swarming and generalists and focus heavily on specialists.

Does a baseball team “swarm” around the ball? Does the 1st baseman ever pitch?

These things have evolved over time for a reason — because it’s more successful that way.

Pretending it isn’t is one of the biggest untruths of the Agile movement.

The Agilists simply do not like a Command and Control environment — they don’t have to. But they don’t have to state untruths to prop up their personal agendas.

If they don’t like their manager — find a better one. Removing them and replacing them with even more novice managers (the team) makes little sense. If it did, it would have been adopted aeons ago.


About postagilist

Architect, Manager, Developer, Musician, Post-Agile thought leader
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8 Responses to Teamwork in a Command and Control Enviornment?

  1. Pingback: New PM Articles for the Week of May 28 – June 3 | The Practicing IT Project Manager

  2. Marines, arguably one of the most effective units in the military, I have been told my numerous sources is not built on C&C but adaptive teamwork.
    I wonder whether a baseball team, for example, is more closely aligned to widget building then to knowledge work. It is the shift to knowledge work that often makes Agilists prescribe a less C&C environment as fear and disempowerment inhibits innovation and continuous improvement.
    I don’t see many baseball players stand there for a while and think of the best approach, it is reactive, instinctual. I am trying to be open minded here but I can’t help but think the analogy isn’t quite right.

    • PostAgilist says:

      Hi Renee

      Thanks for the comments.

      I’m making two different points;

      1) That in C&C environments Teamwork exists (which you seem to agree with)

      2) Most sports teams utilize specialist players in specialist roles, not assigning some given task to any given player

      The players stood around for awhile when they were kids, decided which position they wanted to play, then focused on excelling on that.

      I don’t think traditional business (eg C&C) inhibits innovation and continuous improvement. Toyota is a traditional bureaucracy, going back almost to Samurai days, and they’ve been on a continuous improvement path all along…

      It’s still a corporation with managers and salarymen. They continuously improve. C&C. See how deep the myth runs? It’s a myth.


  3. Arguable Toyota doesnt have an environment of fear and disempowerment – that is what inhibits innovation and CI. Specialisation is a point that I am still personally battling with – I see both sides on the fence and risks on both sides.

    • PostAgilist says:

      Right what inhibits innovation is fear and disempowerment not management per se. Let’s attack the real enemy, not merely throw out all management because some managers are bad.

      If managers took the same approach as agilists did, they would throw out all the developers and write the code themselves because there are a few bad developers. It’s amazing what happens when logic is applied to agile… 🙂

      As far as specialists what risks are there to using them compared to not using them? All of modern society is based on specialization in general, and it’s the specialization of farmers that has allowed us to spend our workforce on other things (computers, ipods etc).

      In the 1800s somewhere around 70% of americans were farmers.

      Now it is 1% or less. That freed up 69% of the population to pursue other pursuists.

      Specialization is a societal good, not an evil… The cost of avoiding specialists and throwing the entire workforce to be inefficient farmers to pursue some socialist ideal of equality doesn’t make a lot of sense to me…?

      Avoiding specialists in today’s highly specialized computer field is unrealistic. The HTML folks are going to swarm around and build native apps for iOS, Android and Windows? Really? 🙂

      You can try an experiment, you can get 7 people who are very agile but have no experience in game dev and see if they can write Max Payne 4 faster, better, and cheaper than a team of 7 specialist game developers…


      • Re: specialisation
        I am well aware of the pros of specialisation. The risk with it is that it is a little harder to balance work and workaround constraints but the other side of the coin is that you should be fixing problems rather than working around them.

        Don’t forget the iPhone (I noticed you didnt mention it) is the converse, it is the widening of a specialised product into more – arguably three things in one. It is for this reason that it sold like wildfire. There are advantages to having a team that is multi-skilled. It isn’t easy to get there or find them but it does mean less dependencies.

        Re: managers
        It isn’t that there are a few bad managers. It is that the good manager is the exception. I say this having had my fair share of both. And I don’t believe it is a suitable solution to look for a new job if you do have a bad manager. There should be other options.

      • PostAgilist says:

        Hi Renee

        I did mention iOS which is the iphone and ipad.

        It’s true that there are a lot of bad managers but there are a lot of bad devs too.

        I don’t think you should have to look for a new job if you have a bad manager; the bad manager should look for a new job.

        However it is what it is. Since good managers are rare the odds that the “team” will be a good or fair manager is not likely either, and even worse, it’s having multiple bad managers that have to vote on things.

        If you find any good options, let me know, but given the choice of 1 mediocre manager or 7 mini mediocre mcmanagers, I’d go with the former.

        It’s not ideal but it’s better than the alternatives that I’m aware of.

        Lots of people quit jobs because they don’t like or trust their manager. It’s the leading cause of turnover.


  4. In any position, purist approaches are harmful. Traditional management -with command & control environments- gets out success projects. Agile produces success projects. What is common factor? People. Success depends on people, regardless of the framework or management used.

    The question is: this energy and enthusiasm is always the same? are really motivated people or just follow orders? what happens when the motivation falls?

    Agile is a little more concerned about these issues. I work in a traditional company and I’m agile activist too; and we have team that work in harmony, with problems..of course; but convinced that company exists because of the ability of your people to express -individual and collectively- their identities and differences, encouraging respect and collaboration…. trying to be more agile.

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