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What is the Role of a Manager in an Agile Organization?

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Your organization is adopting Agile Development and your Managers are trying to find their new role. Prior to the adoption Agile perhaps management was involved in the creating the specifications and assigning the tasks. According to the Cambridge dictionary, to manage means: "to be responsible for controlling or organizing someone or something especially a business".

Now that teams are self organizing and the stories (instead of specs) come from the product owner. So what does management do? George Dinwiddie, Software Development Coach with iDIA Computing, suggests that there are four major roles:

  • Removing impediments from across the company
  • Measuring the effectiveness of the process
  • Long term technical strategies
  • Other strategic thinking

George's take away, management should step back from low level, day to day work and trust the team to do make the right choices.

Mark Graybill, Owner of Tiger Team,  cites a case where a Senior Executive had his hands deep inside of the teams work. When the behaviour was changed the team was able to produce more value in the next few months than it had in the previous six.

Tom Poppendieck, co-author of Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit, says:

At Toyota, technical management is extremely important.  Their core roles are to act as teachers and as collaborators with the front line workers to relentlessly improve their processes and practices.  Technical managers engage with their teams and help them do experiments to identify better ways of working and when improvements  are found, they make the learning rapidly available to other teams.  ...  In short, they focus on improving the capability and capacity of their entire organization to contribute to creation of valuable products.

Finally Mark Woyna, President of Argonne Technologies, points out that sometimes roles have outlived their need in which case the organization has to find a new role for that person altogether.

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