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InfoQ Homepage News The Role of Executives and Managers in Value Stream Management: Insight from Al Shalloway

The Role of Executives and Managers in Value Stream Management: Insight from Al Shalloway

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In a presentation delivered at Capital One Agile Conference in December 2018, Al Shalloway, CEO at NetObjectives, spoke about the importance of organizing work and people around value streams, and about the role of executives and managers in optimizing the flow of value. Al Shalloway published additional thoughts around value stream and management in The Effective Organization of the Future.

As organizations are transitioning to agile or improving on their transformation journey, the role of executives is to design and communicate the vision of an effective organization that best aligns with its culture and performance goals. The role of executives is not to make the change, but rather when it becomes clear that a change is needed, they need to set the vision and support those changes. They identify the organization’s north star and guide people at every step of the change, instead of imposing a predefined framework.

Executives don’t get involved in the day to day transformation, but, when needed, they support managers and teams in removing organizational impediments. They coordinate with leaders across the organization, such as HR and Infrastructure leaders, to avoid or address negative risks to the continuous flow of value.

Because agile transformation represents a change in the way value is delivered, executive need to structure the organization behind the flow of value, the value streams, and empower network of teams to make decisions because they are closest to the day to day delivery of value. Development must tie back to the vision, but most organizations don’t do this very well, according to Shalloway, generally because of the single focus on developing and releasing fast.

This is where the role of managers comes in place: value streams’ objectives are to deliver the highest value in the shortest time. Managers can support achieving this by eliminating impediments that not only create delays to the value stream, but also create additional work and distractions to the teams who must manage and track the delays. In the most effective organizations, management has the responsibility of reducing the cost of delay, by removing any organizational blocker impeding the flow of value, such as handoffs, work delays when teams are working on too many priorities.

Managers responsibility is also to ensure alignment between the business direction and the development direction. To achieve this, they work relentlessly to continuously reduce the complexity of change and the cost of delay, while optimizing the value eco-system.

Mik Kersten, CEO at Tasktop, introduced, in Project to Product, the value stream network architect, role that can be fulfilled by managers who are officially empowered to improve the value flow. Managers are called to investigate the root cause of impediments and waste, reduce the cost of delay and the organization’s complexity.

Value streams aren’t defined by leaders and managers. Teams must map their value streams and identify inefficiencies. Managers can then reorganize their talent around the value streams to reduce time and flow from concept to value realization. The role of management becomes critical in reducing the cost of delay.

According to Shalloway, organizations often assume that executives and managers understands how networked teams work or how the flow of value and value streams work. Most don’t understand how to tie business initiatives back to the teams and therefore don’t know how to give them the environment and the tools necessary for their success. The role of management is to design environments in which people can work more effectively and then let their people work within that context. Managers must act consistently with trusting the people to operate independently within consensus-based and transparent guardrails and agreements. 

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