Middle Management’s role and Appraisals

Continuation of A Product Director’s Quest for Change and New Capabilities Part 4 of 4. (You can read part 1, part 2, and part 3.)

The third part ended with Sara asking Kim: “How to do appraisals?, and what to do with middle management?”

Read on about how Product Director Sara and Agile Coach Kim created their Agile model. 

…. a week later.

Middle Management’s role

Middle Management and product development are seen as different responsibilities. The former is about ensuring the organisation design supports the teams as best it can, while the latter is all about developing the best product possible. You do not want to mix these two responsibilities. Why? Two reasons

First: We do not want to use the time and intellect of the product people on internal management activities. Instead, we want product people to be out there focused on customers, users, stakeholders, market dynamics and innovation. Therefore, we remove all the management activities from the Product Owner role.

Second: We do not want general management people making decisions about products because not only is this outside their expertise, but it also removes focus from solving organisational problems to better support the teams.



Therefore, redesign a new PO role that separates the PO’s activities from the general management activities. The PO is outward-focused on customer understanding. Leave the inward-focused management activities for managers.


To have successful teams, it is crucial to create collaboration and alignment towards serving your business goals. The skills required by your teams are constantly evolving. For instance, technologies that are highly regarded today may lose their importance in a couple of years as new advancements emerge. To stay competitive, your product group needs to develop a deep understanding of these emerging technologies.

Therefore, it is critical to encourage individuals to become multi-skilled specialists as it can greatly benefit your organization. By striking a balance between deep specialists and generalists within your teams, you can benefit from the collective expertise and versatility needed to navigate various challenges. Now, this is easier said than done. To accomplish this, your organization can create a multi-skilled appraisal system that empowers individuals to create their own job paths that best support their team needs. 

The general process revolves around principles that drive continuous improvement. This includes providing people with frequent feedback from their social surroundings through informal social sessions, which serve as a catalyst for improving skills and competencies. The feedback they receive is not intended to pass judgment but rather to offer constructive input for personal growth. It is exclusively directed to a person, and the feedback providers, including your team members and direct collaborators, act as partners or coaches rather than authoritative figures.

By embracing these principles and establishing a supportive growth-oriented culture, you can empower teams to navigate the changing landscape effectively.

Want to Learn More?

There is a lot of interesting content here about Agile Organization design and you can sign up for a Coaching Agile Organization course, or a Designing Agile Organizations course.