Sunday, November 8, 2015

Agile managers: Are you listening?

I keep running into situations where managers, with all their good intentions, either misinterpret, ignore, or fail to understand certain agile concepts due to various reasons. Shortcuts provide them immediate relief the long term pain typically aggravates. This impacts not just the outcomes, but also the team and the managers in ways that are usually not positive.

Are you a manager? This is for you...

  1. Start right, because if you don't you will put the entire project or initiative in jeopardy. Managing expectations is the key. If your voice is not being heard by higher-ups, do not be a weakling and get help. It could be someone with more influence or with more experience or perhaps a mentor or a coach. Ask yourself - who can help you make a convincing argument and even argue on your behalf? Engaging higher ups is not sufficient. Get your team to appreciate why starting right is in their own interest. Ally with the team.

  2. Adapt or Die. If you don't learn from mistakes you will find it hard to survive. This is applicable for you not just as an individual but also for your team. Those who do not learn from their mistakes and from each other, keep running fire-drills. If using Scrum, lack of learning will manifest itself as smells and Scrum-butts. You might even give up parts of Scrum, abandon it altogether, or start using your own "easy-Kanban" method without applying WIP limits or even visualizing their workflow. Are you a leader of such a team or teams? Why do you think this is happening?

  3. Be transparent. At times there may seem to be a tendency and perhaps even an incentive not to be transparent about your project and team. There could be many reasons for this situation, organization-created or self-created or just fabricated from fear. When you look into the reasons, think about what is best for you, best for your team, best for your organization and best for the customer - ideally, all the four should have the same answer. If not, dive deeper and ask why is there a difference? Can you do something? If you can't do anything about it, are you at the right place doing the right job?

  4. Promote collaboration, simplicity, and excellence. Agile principles talk about collaboration, simplicity and emphasize technical excellence. There is usually nothing more powerful than collaborating to deliver successful outcomes, in small chunks, along with technical excellence, that motivates a strong development team. As a manager, you carry a ton of influence and responsibility to make this happen.

  5. Deliver customer value and team happiness. You have demonstrated your success as a manager when your team is delivering functionality that makes customers happy, it is building-in quality into the product, and is proud of its accomplishments. The process may be useful but it is not the goal.

Good luck!

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