The 95% Rule for Agile Leaders

The 95% Rule for Agile Leaders

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Now that I think about it, a “rule” sounds a whole lot more formal than I intend it. Perhaps I should call it a guideline or a heuristic or a thinking tool?

Ah, I don’t know. Let’s get into it and make that determination afterwards.

It’s simple really. It revolves around telling your teams what to do. That is providing your directives, strong opinions, and guidance when you’re interacting with your fledgling agile teams.

The premise is that for every 100 opportunities that you are confronted with in your organization to provide prescriptive advice to your teams, you get no more than 5 times to actually tell your teams what to do.

You have to keep the tally in your head.

You have to be honest about it.

You shouldn’t tell anyone else your doing it. It’s just for you.

As leaders, it helps us by:

  • Preventing us from micromanaging or being overly prescriptive.
  • Forcing us to carefully consider our engagement points with the team.
  • Hopefully it encourages us to keep a few opportunities in reserve, in case there is an emergency intervention needed
  • In general, it causes us to pause and think before we go mucking around our teams – telling them what to do.

But it does give us the opportunity to, dare I say it, LEAD because it also encourages us to engage when it matters the most.

I hate to say it, but you can circumvent the rule. How you might ask?

You can circumvent it by asking, carefully crafted, open-ended questions of your team. Not trick questions or leading questions, but true curiosity questions or important questions that your teams may be missing.

These questions are intended to get your teams thinking about things from a different perspective. And they are fair game, in that they don’t count against your 5 allowed prescriptive comments.

I told you it was simple.

And I know what you’re thinking. Is this something I made up OR do I actually use the rule myself?

I actually use it. And I’ve found it helps me to achieve the balance I need to be an effective agile leader. My hope is you find the same with it.

Oh and, let’s leave it as a RULE for now. I think you’ve got to practice and earn the right to loosen it up a bit.

Stay agile my friends,


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