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Management 3.0: Being an Agile Manager

Posted by jc-Qualitystreet on 2010/11/15

During an agile transition program, do not let your managers by the roadside! Rather help them to become Agile managers and to control the evolution of their profession.

The « era of management 3.0« (agile and lean) is announced so make the middle manager a key player for change, between opportunity and necessity…

The case of middle management

« Top-Down » or « Bottom-Up », there is no debate anymore. We know today that a top management support and the ownership by the teams are both essential to ensure the success of the transition to agility. No, the issues of the Agile Enterprise are now in intermediate managerial layers of the organization.

Towards an Agile Middle Management

Towards an Agile Middle Management

How to approach them? How to convince them? How to transform them?

My experience with Agile projects and agile coaching in various sectors (banking, industry, software vendor …) showed me that this is the middle management that holds the keys to agility on the Long Term. Indeed, middle managers can be the most active supporters or the worst impediment and therefore the most dangerous opponent of the agile transformation.

The opportunity to become an Agile Manager…

With only one goal: the success of teams…

The « Command & Control » management style based on Taylorism and scientific management (OST) has shown its limits… the agile manager explores new dimensions (mostly related to facilitation & leadership) to ensure the success of all. The role within an agile organization becomes a clever trade-off between maintaining / abandoning some responsibilities and acquiring new skills.

So, even if every management role is unique, context-specific, here is the list of the 6 core activities of the Agile manager:

  1. (Still) Manage the portfolio of projects and coordinate with other managers
    • Define projects strategy at the organization level
    • Set priorities
    • Define budget and resources
    • Do the staffing
    • Work with peers as a team
  2. (Still) Manage recruitment
    • Hire people
    • But also fire and solve potential conflicts
  3. Support Projects and Agile self-organized Teams
    • Promote autonomy and self-organization
    • Remove impediments that the team or ScrumMaster are not able to manage
    • Manage logistics
    • Buy the supplies
    • Challenge teams and help them to improve their knowledge about products, tools, technologies, methods…
  4. Create a relationship of trust, develop (career) and motivate people
    • Make yourself available
    • Get to know each person and his work
    • Facilitate the acquisition of new skills
    • Give feedback
    • Give work recognition
    • Delegate tasks
  5. (Still) Create an environment for success and energize change
    • Communicate the vision
    • Give a direction
    • Adopt the appropriate management style
    • Simplify usage
    • Seek performance through appropriate tools and processes based on continuous improvement and waste elimination
  6. Initiate, support and animate communities of practices
    • Give time and resources to agile communities, ScrumMaster, Product Owner, Agile Manager, Architects, UX Groups …,
    • Promote communities of practices in the organization

And my role as an Agile Coach?

Engage conversations with managers and support them in their journey toward becoming an AGILE MANAGER !

  • Messaoud said,

    Very interesting.

    I have 2 open questions :

    1. Traditional organizational patterns adopt top/down or pyramidal ones, while agile organizational patterns are more systemic/circular/ ones.
    Passing from the 1st pattern to the 2nd one can be challenging: what are your best practices to do that?

    2. How do you feel about this (also) very interesting post:


  • Martin Proulx said,

    Très bon post Jean-Claude.

    I agree with your statement of the situation. Indeed, managers need to adapt in order to succeed in an Agile environment. I wrote something along the same lines recently.

  • jc-Qualitystreet said,

    Hello and thanks for your comments

    @Messaoud: Change management is the key. All actors must be identified. You need to involve all the organizations levels and find the appropriate answver for each in terms of comminication, training and participation. The article of Steven Ropa is interesting. My own artcle is focused on what he calls « functional management ».

    @Martin: Your set of articles on the topic is inspiring.

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