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Managers (and Business Stakeholders) in Agile- Where do I fit? Part 1 of 3

So, your company is going “agile,” and you’ve heard that in agile they don’t need managers (at least there is no scrum role for a manager). Additionally, all the teams say they’re supposed to be “self-directing” now, whatever that means! What’s a good manager to do?

Or are you a business stakeholder trying to make sense of this new methodology that IT said they’re doing that doesn’t emit the information you’re used to getting?

Well, be not afraid! Being agile doesn’t mean we get rid of all managers; managers are still needed to help hold the value context of a project and to give the team high level direction. Now, this doesn’t mean things don’t change- they certainly do and you will have to learn new skills just like the rest of the team; some of these changes and skills will be discussed in part 2 of this 3 part blog series.


So what does it mean to be agile?

Agile is a set of principles upon which various methodologies are built for delivering products to market  by focusing on what can be built in small individual increments that will deliver value to the end user- this is typically software products, but can be used on any project.

There are lots of “flavors” of agile (Scrum, Kanban, Lean, XP, just to name a few), but they nowadays all base their principles on the Agile Manifesto[1] , which gives the basics of an agile mindset- valuing individuals and interactions over processes and tools, working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation and responding to change over following a plan.


OK, great. But where do I fit in? I’m not part of the delivery team!

Agile and flavors of agile put a heavy emphasis on the delivery teams because they are the ones creating the working software for the end users. However, that doesn’t mean that no roles exist in an agile framework outside of that, especially in large enterprises. Without managers and other oversight, agile can’t scale effectively.

Most agile frameworks can be essentially broken out into two teams: the delivery team and the value management team. As discussed above, the delivery team creates the final product. The value management team, on the other hand, chooses what products to invest in, sets the vision and roadmap for those products and gives the delivery team something to rally around and solve. In an agile world, managers, along with business stakeholders, sit in the value management team, giving the delivery teams direction.


But won’t I have less control over my teams now?

It’s true; agile promotes self-organizing and self-directing teams, so managers that previously used a command and control type of management will have to make some changes in their style to allow the team to make most decisions. But, on the other hand, trusting the team and giving them the ability to make the decisions that they are fully capable of making will free up your time to focus on the big issues for the company- like dependency management and what is the next big product you should build.

So, now that I know where I fit and what agile is, what changes for me? Check out Part 2 of this 3 part blog series. In Part 2, we will go over the biggest changes to a manager or business stakeholder’s role in agile. In Part 3, we will give you some tips on how to have a great relationship with the delivery team!

[1] http://agilemanifesto.org/

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