「The Surprising Science Behind Agile Leadership」

Jonathan Rasmusson氏


This morning, I joined agile Japan Tokyo satellite together with about 200 attendances at Tokyo and enjoyed a great speech from Jonathan Rasmusson. As the author of famous book agile samurai, Jonathan talked with us about what is agile leadership and why it works in software production, with the title The surprising science behind agile leadership.

At the beginning, Jonathan introduced us a small story about how a manager improves his worker’s productivity at common industry. By letting his workers write down their output numbers on the wall everyday, he achieved his goal easily. As his workers can check and compare their outputs very easily. Then they will compete with each other. As the result, higher and higher output will be got and they all becomes happy, which is the important. Then how about using this method in software industry? It is quite differently because outputs here, team velocities, are not easy to show and compare. Therefore, agile leadership model was proposed to and it really works quite well in software production industry. Why? For the answer of this question, Jonathan showed us a movie about some scientific experiments at MIT and introduced us two models. First is the profit model, more reward more works. But it does not works well especially for complicated works. Second is he purpose model. People not only works for profit, but also works for purpose! And for a interesting purpose, people can gaven up their current jobs and works for free. It is amazing, right?

After that, Jonathan introduced that the software industry already lasted 40 years and it is changing very fast. But, software production management doesn’t change with it. Currently, old command and control management method are still widely use, which works good at compliance but terrible for engagement. In this software industry, new management method are needed as we need idea, we need autonomy, we need mastery and purpose.

Then Jonathan compared software production with theatre production. About theatre production, it has a hard deadline, it highly depended on actors, it has uncertain outcome and each play is different!! Very similar in software production! We have hard deadline and budget, every engineer is independent individual with unique talents, our production is different every time and we go our separated ways at the end of software development. And for theatre production, for software production and for other industries, we all need have freedoms, our earning potentials will be based in merit,

Anyway, currently speaking, most management at most company not works that way, became the organization is not changing together with the changing of the nature of works. Most organizations are still at command and control way. They love autonomy and self direction, but they have fixed budget and time…So, what can we do about this? Then Jonathan gave us his last topic, 4 take away management methods.


  1. Give people freedom over task time technique team. Let them choose, people are seeking their purpos while money is only one reason.
  2. Pay more than average, to attract better talent and reduce turnovers. Of courses, we need to try taking money off the table.
  3. Make performance metrics wide ringing, relevant and difficult to game
  4. Accept that you are going to be managing people smarter than you. In fact, manager cannot know anything as things are changing fast.


At last, Jonathan said ‘one more’ and gave us his last suggestion to managers: you’re people always want to do great work, you just need to get out of their ways.

That is all from Jonathan’s speech, interesting and usful. Hope not only managers can learn how to lead their team with a new way, but also our common engineers can learn how to cooperate with the new management of our leaders.

東京サテライト公認レポーター:Ma Xuebin