Management by Reporting

Consequences: Action should be taken as close as possible to the time and place of a triggering event… team members. Failure to do this results in delay and increases the risk of either inappropriate action or no action at all. If team members are insufficiently empowered (or insufficiently trained) to inspect and adapt the team process, then the associated risks will be high. Management by Reporting is a contraindication to Agile and Lean practice.

Applicability: This anti-pattern is common in bureaucracies with a stage-gated culture or process, especially those that are heavy with middle management. It can often be found in large organizations that are transitioning to agile ways of working.

Structure: A manager monitors a project and its environment, and reports on status to another management authority in accordance with established reporting conventions.

Motivation: Highlight issues and concerns, while deferring the risk of taking action to others…or at least to a later date. The hope is to avoid personal exposure should there be negative consequences from taking action.

Also Known As: Management by Committee (in the context where multiple parties are involved)

Intent: Limit liability by restricting any action taken to the official communication of status

Proverbs: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing; If you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it

Implementation: The most common implementation of this anti-pattern is a vestigial Project Manager. Typically repositioned as an adjunct to an agile team and as gatekeepers to a legacy stage-gated process, such managers may relay or transcribe the status that has been communicated by Scrum Masters and/or Product Owners.

See Also: Death March, Management by Exception