The role of the Manager in Agile Projects
What is needed is the right behaviours and manager role in Agile in the right place, at the right time.
In an Agile environment, however, the team is self-organizing. It sets its own schedule based on priorities from the product owner and the available capacity and velocity of the team. The team follows the horizontal flow of the work down the value stream.
Moving away from managing by control can be difficult for some managers, and learning to trust and influence can take time. However, the change in behaviour lets the manager delegate decisions to the team, freeing them to concentrate on the longer-term issues and strategy, as well as allowing them to focus on eliminating organizational barriers obstacles to the success of the Scrum teams, this in turn helps the team be more productive.
In reality, not a great deal! The manager role in Agile is to ‘stay in their lane’ and help make efficiency and productivity a reality, maximizing the teams’ ability to deliver value. Agile managers do this through anticipating what their teams are going to need.
In practice, problems arise for three fundamental reasons:
- The managers step beyond their role boundary and start doing work that belongs to another role, often the work of the scrum team.
- Scrum masters don’t give enough time and attention to their glue/co-ordination role across teams. In larger projects with more than one product stream the Product Owners don’t give enough time and attention to their glue/co-ordination role across product streams.
- Under pressure, managers revert to traditional top down waterfall behaviours.
Putting in effort upfront to determine what work goes into which role boundary, and then using this framework to design the managers’ jobs in relation to the work of the scrum teams will pay dividends as implementation begins.
In our next post we will build on the Agile management theme further by taking a look at how executives can use agile frameworks to manage their portfolios.