Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Managing in Agile Scrum

Being a manager in an Agile environment is a bit like taking your first child home from the hospital. You have a general sense of what you need to do, and a lot of people giving you advice, but no really specific guidelines.  So what’s the best way to make sense of the role?

First of all, it’s normal to feel confused when first managing people working in Agile Scrum. After all, the Scrum framework only includes three roles, none of which is a manager. In fact, it’s common for Scrum Teams to shut out managers because they are not clear what their role is. What these people are missing is that when done right, managers have a lot to offer Scrum Teams, and are essential in the effective running of an enterprise company.

Managers can help drive a high-performance organization by moving away from a command and control mindset to one that is principles driven. This means less focusing on the specific actions that your teams are performing as it is guiding and incrementally improving the system within which the teams work.  Some examples of this might include:

  • Support implementing engineering practices like automated testing and continuous integration so that teams can spend less time on routine tasks and focus on creating truly innovative software. 
  • Listen closely to teams and remove the structural and process problems that they say are holding them back. This may mean protecting them from disruptions.
  • Provide a larger context for your employee’s work, helping them to connect what they are working on into a cohesive, company-wide picture. 
  • Design or support work routines that allow for code refactoring – although it would be up to the team to figure out exactly what would be refactored.
  • Build a bridge between the product management strategy and what teams can deliver.
  • Use Performance Management to align your teams to where the company will need to be six months or even years in the future. For instance, do we have the right people in the right jobs? Do they have the skills and technology they need to succeed?

As a manager, only by combining these various skills together into a web of support for the people you manage will you help them to navigate the rough waters of modern software development. Managers can guide the change the organization needs to be successful. And while you may make some mistakes along the way, that's okay - as long as you take it upon yourself to get better every day, carrying everyone along with you, the organization will be in a better place tomorrow then we are today. Good luck!

Related Posts:
The Paradox at the Heart of Scrum
The Science of Innovation

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