Swoop and Poop

Swoop and Poop

Let’s talk about the “Swoop and Poop” management style.

I hope you never experience this, but I’ve seen this happen in my years of product design and design operations.


Ideally, leadership trusts the team for their decisions and empowers the product teams to make decisions. However, the “swoop and poop ” management style, also known as Seagull Management, describes a leadership style of not paying much attention to things until the deadline. Then, and without warning, they jump in criticizing the work that has been done, maybe even using their power to force a decision. The impact of this style is devastating. It forces the team to retreat, forfeit all the progress, and question all of their team decisions that lead to the point. It is disappointing and de-motivating for the delivery team. The result also causes the delivery team to lose focus.

If you do a search on the term and many articles are out there to talk about how to avoid it. There is definite wisdom in these suggestions. The focus of these suggestions is “Communication.” Communicate frequently; communicate early. Set up a checkpoint to inform stakeholders and gather feedback early to avoid conflict at a later stage. Also, use these checkpoints to encourage the team to document the progress that they can reference later. The hope is that stakeholders are well informed and has the same understanding as to the delivery team. At the same time, the argument is, when someone attempts to “poop,” the group will be well-prepared to defend the decision by providing them with the feedback received and showcasing how the project got to where it was with their involvement. Another suggestion is to explain to the stakeholder the impact of time and budget with new changes. 

While these suggestions are well-grounded, and all focus on collaborating as humans. But I see them as overly simplistic answers. In reality, we’ve seen teams set up share out and checkpoint, but the leadership was too busy to pay attention to the detail until the product was at a critical stage. So now the focus shifts to how to mitigate the negative impact? What I have seen helped the team:

  1. Dig into what leadership is trying to accomplish.
  2. Set measurable success metrics, then roll out the product to a small segment of customers to gather feedback, inform decisions, and support the next round of presentations.
  3. Look for alternative ways to meet the needs.

In theory, the leadership team owns the overall product vision, mission while the delivery team owns the roadmap. But in reality, it is not always clear-cut. 

I am ending my thoughts with a question for my Design and DesignOps communities: What practical advice can you give in dealing with the “swoop and poop management style” that helps your team succeed.

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