The forgotten Agile members: Management and Executives

You have enthusiastic sponsors behind your Agile initiative. You even are fortunate to have funding. Be careful, though. You might be under the false pretense that you’re all set to charge forth with introducing Agile to your teams. You could be missing important and often forgotten members needed for true Agile transformation efforts: Management and Executives.

Just because you have self-organized, empowered Agile teams doesn’t mean that Management or Executives are no longer involved. They are. Without these roles, you risk doing an Agile rollout, which doesn’t typically yield expected returns. But transformations do. And Managers and Executives are essential to make this happen. This requires their roles change too, just as the roles of team members do.

To experience a more successful Agile transformation, there should be aligned efforts applied together by 3 groups of folks (ref Figure 1) in equal amounts. However, from my direct experience combined with many conversations with colleagues at two major conferences this past week, effort is often disproportionately applied to only Teams (ref Figure 2); there is relatively much less effort put into the transformation by Executives and Managers. Furthermore, Executive Management and Management may not have effective communications or connections with teams or each other.

Forgotten Agile Members

This phenomenon is not unique to just one sector/industry – I’m seeing a lot of frustration from teams across the board with their Management and Executives (and vice versa) by trying to just rollout Agile processes and tools. They aren’t getting the full anticipated value from Agile as expected.

The following table offers a high-level summary of what each role should be focusing on for a more effective Agile transformation.

The Forgotten Agile Members: Roles

In the case of Executives, a strong, clear and consistent vision is needed. Guideposts that describe “what success looks like” need to be established and shared transparently with Management and teams. Executives need to understand, demonstrate and ensure a proper culture for acceptance of Agile.  They may also need to do activities such as renegotiate contracts and reset expectations with key customers.

Then, Executives should get out of the way by empowering their managers and teams to do what they need to do to achieve success. Let me clarify “get out of the way”.  This doesn’t mean disappear – it means don’t interfere. Executives need to be present and available, but not directive. It’s a fine line that takes practice.

Managers, who typically have team members report to them, must ensure teams are set up for success. Instead of daily hands-on managing and assigning work, the manager role transitions to that of mentor and problem solver. For example, management may tackle non-Agile issues to make Agile processes go faster, such as resolving infrastructure issues, resourcing problems, or eliminating detrimental cross-departmental processes.

Of course, teams must work diligently towards producing high quality work product that brings value to their customers in a timely manner.  Teams also must be open and willing to both receive and give feedback with both Management and Executives.

And above all, every role needs to align and adhere to the Agile values and principles.

There’s a reason why it’s not called an Agile rollout. To get the most value, a transformation is needed. Avoid the misguided perceived need or temptation to disappear now that everyone is empowered.

In my next posting, I’ll cover different types of bad Manager/Executive personas observed and propose 5 suggestions for actions they can take to avoid non-value added behaviors.

For further info on better Agile transformations, please see earlier blogs:

The Dysfunctional Agile Team Member – importance of having right mix of team; it’s ok to shift makeup of a team if it’s not working

Over-communication is So Over – communicating too much in the guise of transparency is just added noise; right-size your communications.

Related content