Updated: Dec 15, 2020
Scrum recognizes three roles: the Scrum Master, the Development Team, and the Product Owner. These roles address critical aspects of an Agile delivery, in particular a delivery that is managed using the Scrum framework. The Scrum Master is the keeper of the framework and acts as the servant leader to the team. The Developer is responsible for delivering the necessary product backlog items to accomplish the goal. Finally, the Product Owner is responsible for the success of the product and represents the customer.
But what about managers? Scrum is silent about other roles in the organization. This does not mean that they can’t or shouldn't exist. They simply exist outside of the Scrum framework. Therefore, managers often feel displaced during the initial stages of an Agile transformation.
Below are five critical responsibilities a manager plays in creating a successful Agile environment:
1. Impediment escalation and resolution
One of the key factors that make Agile so successful is the continuous attention to impediment removal. Therefore, it is important for the organization to have clear guidelines that enable rapid call to action that allows the team to focus on the work instead of the roadblocks.
2. Build trust
Since Agile teams are self-organizing, it is critical that leaders trust the team and that the team trusts its leaders. In his book, “The Human Side of Enterprise,” Douglas McGregor categorizes management styles into two groups, Theory X and Theory Y. Theory X is an approach that managers take when they believe that team members dislike their work and lack motivation. This style involves micromanaging and establishing a command and control approach. Theory Y managers believe that their teams take pride in their work and trust their people to perform the work to the best of their ability. This style of management builds trust. It is important for Agile managers to adopt a Theory Y approach in order to foster an open and trusting Agile environment.
3. Continuous people development
Agile is simple to understand but difficult to implement. This is because it requires us to think differently about how we’re used to working. Training, mentoring, and coaching are effective ways to influence the desired change. Managers must enable access to these learning opportunities for Agile teams to increase their agility.
4. Strategically modifying the work environment towards greater productivity, quality, & job satisfaction.
Self-organizing teams need flexible, collaborative, and fun environments. These include physical and digital venues that foster teambuilding. In the physical world, it is important that teams can create visual radiators, work in open spaces, and retrospect in private areas. In the digital environment, it’s important that remote team members can collaborate through the mediated use of tools that foster real-time communication. The implementation and use of these tools require investment and management support in order for them to work effectively.
5. Reward and recognition
An Agile environment celebrates success and failures at a team level. This requires us to rethink performance evaluation at the individual level. Individual performance evaluation tends to encourage competition and hinder collaboration. On the other hand, team recognition encourages individuals to work together to achieve a common goal. Therefore, managers must actively work to change the language from “Me” to “We” and implement reward systems that are consistent with the desired team outcome.
It could be challenging to change the mindset necessary to become a successful Agile leader, but it can also be very rewarding to see the strides that teams make as you clear the path for them to be successful. Keep these five points in mind and you will be on your way to becoming an effective manager in an Agile organization.