"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change!" - Charles Darwin

Monday, 23 July 2012

Do we need managers in Agile?

I think we do!
And I found very interesting what Portia Tung and Pascal Van Cauwenberghe wrote at the end of their session at Agile 2010 Conference:
In an Agile organization, where the managers are freed from the day-to-day project tasks and decisions, we need them more than ever as leaders doing strategic work, removing organizational obstacles, building trusting relationships with technical staff, coaching, providing feedback, assisting with career development and building the capacity of the organization.

Tough job, eh? Especially if you come from years where you were taught doing a totally different way.

In one of her blog post from last year, Esther Derby had an inspiring say about something to remember about managers (especially those in middle management roles), instead of being just easily critical of them.
I cannot agree more.

In the last 2 years, I had the chance to talk to a lot of managers and most time I could feel and sometimes concretely hear a sense of frustration for the many "don't's" they said they were subscribed and by the too few "do's" they were suggested so that they could perform their "new" job great.
BTW, Scrum is agnostic about managers (as it is about technology)!

"Don't tell the team how to do something!"
"Don't take decisions the team can take by their own!"
"Don't speak at Daily Standup!"
"Don't ..."

"What shall I do then?"

I think they got a great point: it looks like asking a person, who was used to nail, to tighten a screw instead by using his/her old hammer.

Agile and Lean transformation is probably the most challenging and difficult change for a company, no matter if big or small, because it affects both business and people – developers and managers…everybody! And just like before, managers must understand the business they’re dealing with very well.
But business is changed and new challenges are out there asking for being adaptable, innovative and engaging for people: therefore, in order to be successful in the new environment, a manager needs to learn a lot, as well as unlearn. So it is crucial to help these people having such a role in the organization find the proper behaviors, skills and tools to nurture successful teams and to help them improve.

On the other hand, the Annual State of Agile Survey 2011 by VersionOne, shows that 52% of respondents see the Inability to change organizational culture and 34% see Management support as top barriers to further Agile adoption, while 32% see Management opposition as greatest concern about adopting Agile.
It doesn’t look like a pointless concern, does it?

Last week I and a colleague of mine delivered 2-days Lean Management training with the goal to kick-off a group of 16 leaders' journey towards becoming effective Lean managers.
Moving from the reasons why a new type of management is needed and the principles of Lean Management, we explored some concrete tools and practices out of the 7 Lean Disciplines. But the basic message of the training was: if you're serious about changing your organization, you must be even more serious about changing yourself.

The problem is that we all know that most times telling and doing are well far away from each other; my philosophy professor used to repeat a quote from Saint Bernard of Clairvaux: “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”.
The only feasible path I see to improve is to honestly assess where we are, get feedbacks, realize our flaws and take responsibility for concrete actions (baby steps) to move forward.

Wisdom is knowing what to do next; virtue is doing it. - David Starr Jordan

Scrum teaches us having meetings with concrete outcomes and that's what we aimed for during this training as well: each manager left the class with a personal improvement plan of 3 SMART actions to start right the day after. Awesome, isn't it?

And it was even greater to see motivated faces leaving the room, with a sense of urgency for sharing with other colleagues the insights they got during the 2 days!

No comments:

Post a Comment