By Ron Eringa
danymena88 / Pixabay
How will the role of the Manager change in an Agile organization?
This is a question that keeps every Manager busy when they start their Agile journey.
In this blog, I describe the pattern of a changing management style. The behavior is based on my observations when coaching the Agile Manager.
The Pattern of an Agile Manager
A crucial part of an Agile transition is the mindset and acting of the Manager. Many Managers have a hard time changing. Not because they don’t want to change, but mostly because the world around them isn’t ready for it.
Agile Managers need teams to self-organise. Especially when it comes to operational, detailed, day to day activities. Daily, operational work is too complex to be involved in every detail.
However, self-organisation doesn’t just happen overnight!
Agile Managers need to create an environment where peopleteams organize themselves. Traditional management roles will evolve into leadership roles.
The pattern below describes 5 stages. In every stage, the Manager changes behavior and lets go of an old behavior.
Each of the stages has a relation to the maturity-level of the Scrum team. An Agile Manager cannot grow when the Scrum Master, Product Owner and Development Team are not growing along.
The Director wants to be in control. He has a highly directive management style and tells people what to do; sometimes, even how to do it. The Director compares a Scrum team with a factory or an execution-machine.
The organization is a top-down hierarchy. Plans are made at the top of the hierarchy. The Director makes sure that people below in the hierarchy (Product Owners included) focus on execution.
The Director gives people individual targets to ensure efficiency, quality, and responsibility for the outcome. Profit and shareholder happiness are the main measurements for progress. Teams commit to time, scope and budget to make sure plans are executed.
Directors in a transition to the next stage have difficulties, since:
- The whole organisation is so used to this management style that it is very hard to change it.
- Targets are still efficiencyshareholder driven.
- People in (Scrum) teams are not used to self-organise (although they might be open for it).
- Teams aren’t stable enough to continuously learn and become self-organised.
Being a Director in a world with uncertainty and change is stressful. At some point he needs to delegate stuff to people he can trust. That’s the moment where Directors become Influencers. A Manager needs some maturity from the Scrum Masters, Product Owners and Development teams to make that shift.
The Influencer still has a need for control. He still makes the top-down plan and then tries to get buy-in on these plans.
Once he has buy-in, he delegates the less critical tasks. In this way the Influencer can focus on escalations and high importantlong term decision making: