Your Management Job in an Agile Environment

Your Management Job in an Agile Environment

2017 09 01 head


You develop your software products using agile approaches. You are doing Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban, Lean Software Development, or LeSS.

Your collaborators start asking questions about organisation, management roles, and critique the internal processes. How employee yearly evaluation, bonus evaluation - work? You hear strange statements such Be agile, do not do agile.

You as a manager realise you have to describe your role in an agile environment. What does it mean? Please read first this blog post describing What is an Agile Company?

If you have time read the post Why Scrum Masters are not Administrators?

Another one is about So Calle Agile and Scrum Failures. Upon reading, you shall have a deeper understanding how to describe your role as a manager in an agile environment.

We will first discuss your work environment, and second characteristics of people you are working with. Finally we will sketch your job description.

Complex Systems and Empiricism

The development organization of a software solution is a complex system. This means that nobody understands the rules. You cannot implement a measure and be certain it will improve the whole system. If you want to implement lasting improvements you must

Provide transparency
The more you and your collaborators know the better your decisions are. All information shall be available to all participants, including financial and marketing data,
Experiment with improvement
Inspection and adaptation are keys; processes and value streams shall constantly be improved, Take the lean approach: Relentlessly eliminate waste and increase the value stream,
Establish long living teams
Teams are the backbone of your company; people are human beings not resources.

Collaborators and their Needs

Knowledge workers are the collaborators you hire in this millennium. They are smart, motivated and better qualified than you are.

It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.

Steve Jobs

A manager working with knowledge workers has understood the above quotes and

  • Believe in the X vs Y theory. You provide safety to all your people and truly respect them. People only perform if you provide psychological safety. The test is Do you compliment every collaborator you are working with at least once a week,
  • Provide a purpose, give autonomy, and let them achieve mastery. The test is Continuous learning and improvement through trial and error,
  • Promote exclusively intrinsic motivators. The test is No bonus or monetary incentive system exits in the company,
  • Establish a work environment where collaborators work in flow. The test is No email or phone answering rules in the company; no mandatory overtime.
Simon Sinek

The agile and lean principle Plan-Do-Check-Adapt applies to agile managers as well.

  • Are you catalyzing organization change to embrace agile values, starting with a culture of value delivery?
  • Do you provide significant organizational roadblock removal for agile teams?
  • Do they perceive you as a coach and leader more than as a manager?
  • Do you use metrics to support teams improve their performance and to help senior leaders understand how to improve value delivery?
  • Are you helping your partners create lean processes to synchronize with agile teams?
  • How are suppliers encouraged to work in an agile way?

Let Go and Delegate

Delegate and empower your team. As a manager you shall reconsider which activities are your responsibility. An agile team must at least be self-organized and ideally self-designed.

manager lead
The team performs the work,
self-organised / self-managed
The team organises and performs its own activities and work,
self-designed / self-selected
The team creates, selects and removes new members and maintains itself. Logically they are also in charge of evaluation, rewards, and career development,
self-directed / self-governed
The team has no outside management.
2017 09 02 types of authority

See also Mike Cohn’s blog [Types of Authority Leaders must give to self-organizing Teams].

Job Description

Champion the Agile Process
as a manager, you will be expected to get behind the move to agile and support it in both your words and your actions. Create an awesome work environment to attract smart collaborators,
Mentor Teams to Solve Problems
Their confidence, learning, and the level of respect they earn from their teams will depend to a large extent on how you treat them,
Participate in transition planning
Agile transformation promotes self-organized teams that work efficiently on their own, which involves strategic planning,
Find ways to reduce waste
as an agile manager, you will be expected to continually improve workflow and maximize efficiency by eliminating impediments. This key activitiy may not be part of your current role as a manager,

You will have more than enough work as a manager in an agile company. Only the content will be different.