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Agile Coaches' Corner shares practical concepts in an approachable way. It is for agile practitioners and business leaders seeking expert advice on improving the way they work to achieve their desired outcomes. If you have a topic you'd like discussed, email it to, or tweet it with #agilethoughtpodcast.

Nov 13, 2020

Dan Neumann is joined once again by Quincy Jordan; Principal Transformation Consultant at AgileThought! Today, they’re exploring the concept of losing control to gain value.


Though the concept of “losing control” may sound a bit frightening, it is actually the most invaluable thing you can do as a leader of a team! Oftentimes, there are habits of control that can greatly impact a team’s ability to self-organize, mature, and deliver value. With less control, the team is able to produce better value.


In this episode, Quincy outlines the many interesting facets of losing control to gain value. He shares what this loss of control is, why losing control is key to gaining value, what you can do as a leader to let go of control and support your team in creating value, and much more!


Key Takeaways

Why is it important to lose control to gain value?

If you’re wanting to gain/produce value, you can run into roadblocks if you have a desire or habit of control

Oftentimes, leaders and senior leaders (especially managers, tech leads, etc.), primarily in the context of Scrum, struggle with a habit of control which can block them from achieving their desired result of more value

There are many habits of control that can impact the team’s ability to self-organize and deliver value

The leader can become accustomed to controlling the team’s narrative, leading the team to build mechanical habits (which doesn’t encourage self-organization, free-thinking, or experimentation)

Leaders are often inundated with fear that if they allow the team to self-organize they’ll make the wrong decisions or won’t produce as much (but this needs to happen in order for the team to mature properly)

When people want to direct and control what the team does (i.e. how they figure things out) they are hindering them from producing better results or better value (your team is full of smart people that can figure things out!)

If the team only knows the objective and they don’t understand the “why,” there is the potential that they’ll begin to do stuff mechanically (because it cripples them from making decisions in line with what the expectations are)

If you are directing your team’s day-to-day activities, you’re actually limiting/capping what they’re capable of

Exerting control of their activities makes you become the bottleneck

Why can a loss of control lead to more value?

Shifting the focus from trying to control what people are doing to instead trying to understand what they’re intending to do allows the team to mature

By removing yourself as the bottleneck of your team you’re allowing them to have room to grow and mature

Tips for leadership in letting go of control to support the team in creating value:

As a leader, it is important to not only understand the approach that’s being taken and where the parameters are/where the boundaries lie, but also that the team has the ability to self-organize and to figure out the best way to accomplish what is going to produce the most value

Your team just needs to know what the objective is that they’re trying to achieve (any more control is a hindrance)

It is critically important for teams to understand the “why” behind what the objective is (if they do, 9/10 times they’ll produce the best results and the best value that they’re capable of!)

Instead of controlling or directing the workflow, leaders should be focusing on improving the environment in which people work, closing skill gaps, and removing organizational impediments

As a supervisor or tech lead, you should serve as a mentor or be there as a  resource for the team (i.e. a go-to point for team members if they get stuck or need some direction on finding resources that will help them do their work)

It’s important to be there as a support but not a person to direct day-to-day activities as a leader

Leaders at a program, VP, or portfolio level need to make sure that they’re supportive of an agile ecosystem

In David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around!, he talks about intent-based leadership (where the team comes to leaders, not with a request for direction, but instead with a: “I intend to do x, y or x,” which gives the leader a chance to inquire if appropriate. Eventually, this leads to less checking as the team demonstrates competency and consistency of delivery)

Pivoting to intent-based leadership is only possible if the leader makes it clear what the outcome is that they’re expecting

How to balance giving your team room to grow with safety measures:

In taking a Scrum approach, there are many benefits (because the framework gives solid boundaries that allow for a good balance of self-organization and accountability)

Accountability to one another (and themselves) is created by having daily Scrums

The sprint review adds balance because nobody is going months at a time without feedback

There is a regimen within the flexibility that the Scrum framework provides


Mentioned in this Episode:

Quincy Jordan

Agile Coaches’ Corner Ep. 101: “Are Scrum Masters Expendable?”

Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders, by David Marquet


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