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Managing the Agile Team Environment

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It is a well known fact that people leave managers, not organizations. Though, Agile teams are known to have camaraderie amongst team members, however the relationship of the manager with the team members and the organizational ecosystem as a whole holds the key to being an successful Agile manager.

Johanna Rothman suggested that Agile managers can no longer afford to be functional managers. They need to be champions for their teams. This means that the manager has to learn about all the team members by doing a weekly, biweekly one-on-one. Managers should be able to provide feedback, meta-feedback (i.e., feedback about how to give feedback) and meta-coaching (i.e., coaching about how to coach).

Managers should also provide career development. This not only helps them build a relationship of trust with the team but also provides a an impetus to the organizational goals. According to Johanna,

Career development is rarely linear. People experiment with different roles at work. It’s even easier to experiment on an agile team, where the team members are generalists. A manager — one who is not responsible for a specific iteration’s goals but is responsible to the organization — can suggest alternatives for a person to take on different responsibilities.

Lyssa Adkins suggested that the Agile manager is responsible for all the activities happening around the Agile team. He is responsible for managing teams, managing investments, and managing the organization’s environment. The subcategories under these categories are

  • Managing Teams
    • Agile team management
    • Resource management
    • Performance management
  • Managing Investments
    • Managing through metrics and reporting
    • Agile portfolio management
  • Managing the Environment
    • Internal partner management
    • Supplier managemend and outsourcing
  • Meta-Competency
    • Organizational change

Likewise, Jeffrey Palmero mentioned that apart from the team, the Agile manager has to manage the customer well so that the Agile team ecosystem can continue to function smoothly. According to Jeffrey,

Part of your job is managing the development team, but you must also manage the customer. Customer satisfaction depends so much on managing expectations. Customers don’t like surprises. You shouldn’t provide surprises.

Lyssa mentioned a series of questions to help an Agile manager analyze if they measure up to the Agile managers role. Some of the questions were

  • Are you catalyzing organization change to support agile values, starting with marshalling a culture of value delivery?
  • Do you provide significant organizational roadblock removal for agile teams? Do they perceive you as a coach and leader more than as a manager?
  • Do you use metrics to help teams improve their performance and to help senior leaders make decisions that improve value delivery?
  • How are suppliers encouraged to work in an agile way? Does your outsourcing help or hinder your agile teams?

Thus, the expectations from an Agile manager are much wider and far reaching than just managing a team and delivering a project. They range from career development of team members to removing roadblocks at the organizational level to helping the customers stay happy and realize the business value on their investments.

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Community comments

  • argh!

    by Michael Burke,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Is it just me, or has 'Agile' now been co-opted as a meaningless, diluted synonym for 'good'.

    ie - 'Agile' managers remove blockers for their team and work on building a relationship with their customers. Therefore, non-agile managers don't do these things and are bad.

    Replace 'agile' with 'good' in the above article and tell me this doesn't just rehash common wisdom and knowledge around the role of effective management.

  • Re: argh!

    by Vincent Theron,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Totally agree. This article has nothing to do with Agile, it's just general good management advices.

  • series of questions

    by Nathan Gloyn,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Not able to access the article on "series of questions to help an Agile Manager ..." as you have to be a member of the scrum alliance to do so, are these available anywhere else?

  • Bringing Teams Together With Deployment Automation

    by XebiaLabs XebiaLabs,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Hi Vikas, nice article. I like how you show the Agile manager’s duties stretch to every corner of an organization. As part of team management, I’d add that the manager should introduce tools that strengthen teams, such as automated deployment. In an Agile environment, deployment automation helps bring development and operations teams together, getting releases to market sooner and avoiding the backlog from manual processes. If the Agile manager is expected to oversee teams and promote productivity, then isn’t introducing deployment automation tools a way to reach these expectations?

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