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Our agile manager… Supports projects and agile self-organized teams

Posted by jc-Qualitystreet on 2011/02/21

The job of manager is evolving… between opportunity and necessity

After « Our agile manager initiates and supports communities of practice« , this is the second article devoted to the responsibilities of the agile manager.

#2 Support projects and agile self-organized teams… which means:

To promote autonomy, empowerment and self-organization
To remove impediments that the team (broadly defined) cannot raise
To protect the Team
To manage logistics (including setting up an Agile Environment for the team)
To challenge the Team and help improve it to improve its knowledge of the product, technology, methods or tools

In short, it consists in supporting the success of the team, its self-organization and its quest to create value and delight the customer…

You said « self-organizing teams »?

Self-organization is the ability of a team to decide how to organize its own activities to achieve the goals set or solve the problems it faces. The effectiveness of Self-organization has been proven … and in good conditions (mainly depending on management), self-organizing teams naturally evolve into HIGH PERFORMANCE TEAMS.

Self-organization belongs to the foundation of agile… It is one of the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto (2001): « The best architectures, requirements and designs emerge from self-organizing teams. »

But « the self-organized project team » is also a winning practice, one of the 6 characteristics of leading companies, discovered in 1986 by Takeushi and Nonaka. In The New Product Development Game, the authors pointed out the benefits (speed, flexibility and innovation) of self-organizing teams at Toyota, Honda, Fuji-Xerox, HP or 3M. The article was a source of inspiration for agile methods like Scrum…

Managers, we need you to encourage self-organization

Self-organization is a « common » behavior of any system (related to the fabulous ability to adapt), but to be optimal, self-organization should be both bordered and supported.  Agile development teams are no exception to the rule…

To ensure it, the role of the organization is to give a direction, to share a VISION. And managers should define the context by setting limits and constraints and support self-organizing agile teams, to enable them to flourish and perform. Unfortunately, only few managers are able to do it today…

It is clear that the agile self-organized teams must align and evolve with organizational goals. Managers need to articulate what the team does and its own objectives with those of the organization. In parallel and to maintain a successful self-organization, managers will have to know each team member and his work but also provide recognition and appropriate feedback.

In short, without the involvement and commitment of middle management, self-organized teams will… fail.

A new managerial posture is required

Within the population of managers working with agile teams, some are already adapting, for others it is more difficult…

Now in all cases, middle management must show leadership, and leaves behind habits inherited from the past that have little meaning today: command and control, micro-management, or conversely total absence, ignorance and indifference…

Challenging and supporting projects and self-organizing Agile teams will be an important part of the agile manager activity. The Lean & Agile organization offers managers the best opportunity to delegate, to empower people (for real), and to give them the autonomy.  It’s a new and positive perspective but that can only work with the presence of the two pillars of Agile Management:  (mutual) trust and authenticity.

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