Executives have priorities that may conflict with agile practices and mindsets. They can play a critical role in empowering agile. But do they? Learn how the problematic personality traits of the C-suite, which can serve a company well, may hinder agile efforts.

by Terry White
Date Published August 25, 2021 - Last Updated January 20, 2023

This article first appeared in our partner publication, InformationWeek.

How did agile development start? Was it a reaction to the control and bureaucracy that is applied to waterfall projects? Was it about listening to the customer? Or was it about being fleet of foot as an organization? The answer is, of course, all of the above (and some more.) But are these priorities shared by executives? If not, executives and agile teams are going to clash. And agile teams will lose.

I use the term “executives” to include the C-suite, the senior managers, and, indeed, CIOs and IT managers. In fact, in some cases, IT management represents a hurdle to agile teams all on their own, with their need for architectural fit, security, operationalization, capacity planning, and sometimes just plain stubbornness for doing things the traditional way.

We should look at executives and their motivations before understanding whether they help or hinder agile teams. In my book, Reinventing the C-Suite, I researched executives’ psychology, and the results are disheartening for agile teams.

Amid a plethora of research papers on the psychology of executives, I found such titles as: “The dark side of executive psychology,” “Executive derailment,” and “1 in 5 CEOs are psychopaths.” Of course, there were also positive papers, but these still suggest a need for executive psychology to be examined and managed.

So what are the predominant psychological traits that these researchers found so disturbing? Hubris and narcissism dominate. Both are negative and affect the kind of executive support that agile teams can expect.

To learn how these personality traits may get in the way of agile, please click on InformationWeek’s original story here.

Terry White was a CIO for 15 years and has been advising executives for 20 years. He is a senior analyst at the technology research company Omdia and has been researching and writing for 15 years. He has written three books on IT management and one on general management. His special interests are IT organization and strategy. He has developed IT budgeting and project prioritization methodologies. He has written about the new role of IT and CIOs in a post-pandemic world. In his spare time, he goes rock climbing.

Tag(s): supportworld, support industry, service quality, service strategy, agile


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