Managers, Agile is here…run for the hills and when you get there…acquire leadership skills and then come back, we need you

The adoption of Agile principles in particular:

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how
to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts
its behavior accordingly.

Business people and developers must work
together daily throughout the project.

Build projects around motivated individuals.
Give them the environment and support they need,
and trust them to get the job done.

The most efficient and effective method of
conveying information to and within a development
team is face-to-face conversation.

Changes the way Managers need to think and act.  Challenging everything that they used to know.

Managers have two choices in organisations that are trying to evolve to a more Agile culture and environment:

1. dig their heels in and hope that firm command and control management will prove that this Agile thing is a waste of time or;

2. embrace the agile principles and trust the teams to deliver great products.  Entrusting them with the business vision and understanding of the brand and the customer. Scary stuff.

For those that take option two, and I encourage you to do so, it’s a really odd place to be, at least initially.  Gone are the tangible activities of problem solving and planning.   You will find yourself asking what on earth do I do now? I’ve been there recently, craving that document that needs signing or the plan that needs updating.  Years as a Business Analyst and Manager will do that to you, that is how you define work.


However the answer to that anxiety about your purpose is an exciting one and something most companies until now, haven’t seen as a valuable investment. That is something called leadership. Leaders are different to managers.  They inspire and motivate the team, steering them towards solutions rather than handing them over. It might be badged as coaches or consultants or masters but with all of these roles or titles, leadership is the thing that is required.


The definition of leadership is “The skill of influencing  people to enthusiastically work towards goals that have been identified as being for the common good with character that inspires confidence.”


“Skill” is something that is learned or an acquired ability. This means that organisations have to support these current managers to become great leaders.  It will most likely not happen naturally. Now more than ever, individuals need this support; to be given the situations and mentoring to build these skills. Create a community of practice (a support network if you like) to make sure leadership is discussed and techniques, behaviours and attitudes shared.


Teams will self organise to be able to deliver great products but will need to be inspired to continuously improve to become better and better.


It’s a wonderful journey that we are on; do not fear the less tangible nature of being a leader.   Be available to your teams, inspire them, serve them and they will prosper. Great teams will make great products, customers will be happy and the owners/chairmen/boards will be happy.


On a related topic Johanna Rothman discusses Agile Management and in particular, leadership.   This also touches on decision making and how visible decision making and allowing teams to focus is important.   Saying that we trust teams to deliver great products and then changing priorities constantly and overloading the teams with multiple contexts is going to be counter-productive.




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