QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF AS AN AGILE MANAGER

No matter how supportive you are of your organization’s move to Agile, you may find that you struggle a bit with adjusting to the changes in your role.   Chances are you were promoted for your technical skills and your ability to lead projects – but it may feel like the rules have changed and you’re not quite sure what’s expected anymore.   Here’s a few questions that may help you assess how far along you are in your own transition to a new way of doing things.

The Team.   First and foremost, you should ensure that your scrum teams are set up for success.   Things you might consider include:

  1.  Is your team size appropriate (7 plus or minus 2)?  There are real reasons for these guidelines – mostly having to do with the limits of small team dynamics.
  2. Is your team collocated and do they have common space where they can really interact in an Agile fashion?   If not, what are you doing to compensate for these shortcomings and how will that be improved upon moving forward?
  3. Do you have a trained ScrumMaster assigned and does he or she have adequate cycles to facilitate the team?   It’s not unusual to be short on SM’s initially, but you don’t want to spread them too thin since they are integral to the integrity of the process.  It’s also going to be important that you have a good relationship and spend some quality time with the SM for your team(s).
  4. Is there a Product Owner who’s really engaged and spending time with the team?  If not, this is one of the classic impediments that may require your help since it often involves working across different parts of the organization.
  5. Are you seeing the signs of a happy team who’s working closely together – the right “buzz” in the development area, a solid burn down chart, and positive team feedback?

Your behavior in the New role

  1. Are you still engaged and paying attention, but not interfering with the team’s ability to self-manage?  Beware if you find yourself needing to attend every standup – and especially if you find you are doing a lot of the talking.   It’s usually an adjustment to realize that you’re still seen as accountable for the team’s success, but you now have to manage this through others in a way that is much more subtle.
  2. Does the team know you’re available and anxious to help with removing any impediments that may come up? If you aren’t available or aren’t seen as welcoming this role, you may become the impediment.
  3. Are you ensuring that the leadership above you is increasingly educated on the implications of your Agile environment?   It’s very important that there is good understanding and support of your new processes at multiple levels in the organization, but it is rare that people at higher levels fully appreciate the impacts of the change.   If you’re not on your organization’s Agile transition team, you still may need to be a vocal supporter to help this cultural change succeed.
  4. Now that you are spending less time in command and control, are you able to spend more time strategizing and thinking through improvements for future projects?  Remember there’s an upside to these changes you should find that you can take your own leadership up a step or two in scope and impact.

 Readiness to Support the Future

  1. There may need to be role changes for certain members of the team.   It’s very common to find that you need to move people into ScrumMaster or Product Owner roles – and you need to ensure those people are the right fit and are working out.   Actively monitor this and mentor or coach anyone who is struggling in this role. Since these roles are integral to a successful Agile implementation, we suggest replacing anyone who’s just not working out in the new role if mentoring or coaching does not help.
  2. Are you and your peers discussing how you may want to change your reporting structure going forward?   If you haven’t restructured around managers owning scrum teams, consider the advantages this may bring for clear alignment and accountability.   If you find yourself owning a cross functional team with both development and test orientation, do you need to brush up your own skills in one of these areas in order to provide good support and counsel when required?
  3. Will you need to consider a changed role?   Sometimes a manager’s span of control will increase after organizing around scrum teams.   You may have a few managers that need to consider new roles.   This can be a great opportunity if you’ve ever been interested in exploring the product management side of your organization – serving as a PO perhaps.   If you’re in a larger organization, you may find that a ScrumMaster role in a higher level scrum of scrums can be a good match – just be sure to watch that you don’t fall back into old habits of command and control.

If you find you’re still struggling to find your equilibrium in the new Agile environment, you’re not alone!   Sometimes managers are glossed over in the initial conversion and training efforts, but remember that you are still an integral part of the organization and are key to its success.  Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions or need assistance in working through more of the implications in your particular organization.