Management theory W, the role of the leader

On his excellent project management blog, Glen Alleman posts about Barry Boehm’s “theory W” and how it is superior to Theory X and Y.

“In fact we as Project Managers, members of projects should be Theory W. The orgial paper, Theory-W Software Project Management: Principles and Examples, Barry Boehm, IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, Vol. 15, No. 7, July 1989.”

My comment was as follows

“That was Barry Boehm at the top of his game. I don’t recall when I first was exposed to “getting to yes”, but I think it was while I was at the nuclear lab.

My group talks about theory X vs Y, but don’t give enough credit to Barry for the steps beyond Y and Z leading to W, even though we have some of the elements. I’m teaching a “Leading a Development Team” in a couple weeks, and I’ll look for places to improve the material by calling out theory W explicitly.

One implication that Barry doesn’t address directly is that theory W separates the roles of coach and leader. He’s nailed the leader role, but that still leaves the coach. My experience suggests you need two different people.”

I see two areas where we might improve our focus, guidance to the team lead, and establishing goals. When establishing goals, the goals section of meeting 2 needs to be tied to team and individual win conditions. I think getting goals from the other stakeholders will require launch pre-work.


What do you think?


About Bill Nichols

PhD in Physics from Carnegie Mellon University I'm a software team coach and instructor with the TSP Team at the Software Engineering Institute
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