Are managers hindering your Agile transition? Does it seem like things would be better if the managers all left?
Most managers are intelligent people who have built their careers and fed their families with their current knowledge and experience. During an agile transformation, we need them on-board. Managers know their present situation better than anyone else. They also have inside knowledge about the corporate systems and culture that agile coaches need in order to be successful.
But in some cases the manager does not understand agile. In extreme cases, they can become an impediment to an agile transformation moving forward. How can you get these managers back on your side, supporting the agile transformation?
Agile coaches should start with working to understand what the world looks like through the eyes of these managers. To facilitate this understanding, I discuss re-purposing the concept of product user personas to create manager personas that explore the issues, reservations, hold-ups and concerns that are keeping the manager from supporting an agile transformation.
With this new understanding, agile coaches can develop ways to demonstrate to managers why the agile approach is better, where management fit in the larger picture, and how management also benefits from the changes in the way the team delivers value back to the organization. These insights show managers where they can improve agile projects, how they can add value in a newly transformed organization, and how agile coaches can guide management without alienating them during an agile transformation.
“Regardless of what we discover, we
understand and truly believe that everyone did
the best job they could, given what they knew
at the time, their skills and abilities, the
resources available, and the situation at hand.”
--Norm Kerth, Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews
Management support is critical
to the success of agile projects
and agile adoptions.
“Yet a common misconception is that
because of this reliance on self-
organizing teams, there is little or no role
for leaders of agile teams. Nothing could
be further from the truth.”
--Mike Cohn, Succeeding with Agile
AGILE IMPACTS EVERYONE
• Organizational Change
• Leadership Change
• Team Change
• Status Change
• Job Description Change
• Role Change
• Culture Change
We are telling managers to
give up the tools, methods,
processes, and behaviors
that have made them
“People who ask others to change may not
understand what value they are asking
people to give up. And in fact, they may not
appreciate or even notice what’s valuable
to the people they expect to change.”
“What does it matter how many
times I reassign team members,
isn’t that what self-organization
“Agile is for IT. Why are you
talking to HR and finance?"
“Your team leaves at 5:00pm
and refuses to work weekends.
Why don’t they have a sense of
“That developer is slacking.
When is the scrum master
going to take care of the poor
Pay attention to the statements
that managers make.
“If the candidate does not have
CSM after their name, they aren’t
“You can’t coach if you’ve
never developed software. Pick
another scrum master for this
“Teams ship working software
at the end of each sprint. That’s
why we implemented scrum.
Work the weekends if you’re
behind. The team needs to
deliver on their commitments.”
“Your teams velocity is worse
than the other scrums teams.
Find a way to get your velocity
up, or we may have to reassign
RESPONSES TO CHANGE ARE INVALUABLE
What is the source of their resistance?
how to do what
they are being
asked to do?
Is there a
that is causing
Is the manager a
champion of the
systems in place
Is the path to
What does the
manager lose due
to the change?
PSM I, PSM II, PSE, CSM, PMI-ACP, PSPO I, PSD
10+ years experience on agile teams
Add value back to the
To be recognized for
the work and
delivered to the team
To foster a safe
people to experiment
and do creative work
Lack of agile
“All mankind is divided into three
classes: those that are immovable,
those that are movable, and those that
• Aligned with
• Eager to
• Coach the
• Early trust
• Support and
• Resistant to
• Low trust
• Seeks to
Make sure people are ready
to hear what you have to say.
“500 YARDS OF FOUL-SMELLING MUCK”
--Red “The Shawshank Redemption”
The management agile transformation
You are going to face a lot of
wrong premises about what
makes safety and speed
Self-organization does not
initially feel safe or fast to
a traditional manager.
“A scrum teams job is to self-organize
around the challenges, and within the
boundaries and constraints, put in place
--Mike Cohn, Succeeding with Agile
SCRUM MANAGEMENT • Manage the boundaries
• Build Stable Teams
• Hire people – Grow skills
• Act transparently
• Examine systems &
correct faulty ones
• Give guidance when
• Reach across org charts
• Definition of Done
• Continuous improvement
• Expect working software
Vision – Direction – Goals
“I finally have time to do my job.”