How Does the Manager’s Role Change in Agile?

[article]

It’s unrealistic to think that your developers or project team members can be creative if they are tasked to be as close to 100 percent utilization as possible. For agile to truly work, IT groups, CIOs, PMO directors, and development managers must rethink the utilization issue and figure out ways to reward the creative process and the research aspect rather than reward the billable hours concept. Sticking to the old 100 percent rule will lead to adoption failure for agile practices.

Remote Versus Collocation

The remote team concept is one that I’d like to explore further. Everything presented during Angel’s session encouraged collocation of agile team members in order to promote creativity and collaboration. I can understand that. The question is, can agile methods work on a project where team members may never meet face to face for the entire engagement?

We must embrace reality here. In 2012 and beyond, organizations are using IT and project teams built with team members dispersed across the country and around the world. I personally have only managed one project in the past six years where nearly all of my team members were located in the same building. Most projects have involved members two thousand miles away or on the other side of the globe. Some specific management challenges to consider are:

  • How well do agile processes translate into the remote project and development team model?
  • Can the cohesive rapid development and rollout happen successfully when no one on the project team is located in the same building?
  • Is the manager’s role compromised in the remote agile project management scenario? Can he still be the facilitator that he needs to be?
  • Will team member creativity take a hit with resources located so far from each other? And if so, what can the manager do to help overcome this and other issues caused by the distance barrier?

What are your thoughts and experiences? I would appreciate reader feedback on agile successes and failures, particularly on the use of agile methods when teams are geographically dispersed.

Summary

In order to successfully adopt agile processes, staff managers and project managers must understand the need to take on different roles—enablers more than leaders, facilitators more than managers. They must be educated or the process won’t work for long. If an organization is going to be successful in adopting agile, then staff members need to properly understand their role and that starts with the organizational leaders understanding how to relinquish some control and focus on helping the team experience success.

Managers must understand that agile team members need time to be creative and, therefore, throw out the full utilization model, even though it’s so hard for executive management to let go of. I still have concerns about remote teams and their success in the agile model. But remote teams are a way of life in today’s IT and project management environment—adaptation is definitely a two-way street.

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12 comments
Nirav Assar's picture

Brad this is a nice article. I think the essence of an agile team is to trust your technical people, and for a leader to have the humility to let go of the concept "My way is the best way, and others don't know any better". The only way for individuals to adopt the perspective of the article, is to let go of that thought.

June 2, 2012 - 4:50pm
Nirav Assar's picture

Brad this is a nice article. I think the essence of an agile team is to trust your technical people, and for a leader to have the humility to let go of the concept "My way is the best way, and others don't know any better". The only way for individuals to adopt the perspective of the article, is to let go of that thought.

June 2, 2012 - 4:50pm
Nirav Assar's picture

Brad this is a nice article. I think the essence of an agile team is to trust your technical people, and for a leader to have the humility to let go of the concept "My way is the best way, and others don't know any better". The only way for individuals to adopt the perspective of the article, is to let go of that thought.

June 2, 2012 - 4:50pm
Nirav Assar's picture

Brad this is a nice article. I think the essence of an agile team is to trust your technical people, and for a leader to have the humility to let go of the concept "My way is the best way, and others don't know any better". The only way for individuals to adopt the perspective of the article, is to let go of that thought.

June 2, 2012 - 4:50pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Brad, a very nice overview of agile management, addressing the need to adapt leadership style when one wants to make it really work, and not just implement the 'mechanics' (processes). Implementing iterative processes can be done, but do not necessary lead towards real agility.

As you write and as Nirav also suggests in his reaction, the key difficult change to make is the change in culture of management towards real trust and the deeply felt conviction that people who are assigned to a (project) job will in general know how to do it in the best way, when given the right support and context for the job (!!).

The notion of self-steering teams are in many cases a scrare-factor for (project) managers. Apart from the fact that they will feel problems in repositioning themselves, the notion that the typical 'command and control' cycle is removed, tends to create unease.

Therefore it is perhaps good to understate that the instating principle of 'tranparency' is so important when changing an organization towards agile project management.
The clear and undisputed ability to 'inpsect' project proceedings, allowing for the project to be 'adapted' for its course is in my mind a prerequisite. Building this capability should go hand-in-hand with the change of leadership itself.

June 4, 2012 - 3:29am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Brad, a very nice overview of agile management, addressing the need to adapt leadership style when one wants to make it really work, and not just implement the 'mechanics' (processes). Implementing iterative processes can be done, but do not necessary lead towards real agility.

As you write and as Nirav also suggests in his reaction, the key difficult change to make is the change in culture of management towards real trust and the deeply felt conviction that people who are assigned to a (project) job will in general know how to do it in the best way, when given the right support and context for the job (!!).

The notion of self-steering teams are in many cases a scrare-factor for (project) managers. Apart from the fact that they will feel problems in repositioning themselves, the notion that the typical 'command and control' cycle is removed, tends to create unease.

Therefore it is perhaps good to understate that the instating principle of 'tranparency' is so important when changing an organization towards agile project management.
The clear and undisputed ability to 'inpsect' project proceedings, allowing for the project to be 'adapted' for its course is in my mind a prerequisite. Building this capability should go hand-in-hand with the change of leadership itself.

June 4, 2012 - 3:29am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Brad, a very nice overview of agile management, addressing the need to adapt leadership style when one wants to make it really work, and not just implement the 'mechanics' (processes). Implementing iterative processes can be done, but do not necessary lead towards real agility.

As you write and as Nirav also suggests in his reaction, the key difficult change to make is the change in culture of management towards real trust and the deeply felt conviction that people who are assigned to a (project) job will in general know how to do it in the best way, when given the right support and context for the job (!!).

The notion of self-steering teams are in many cases a scrare-factor for (project) managers. Apart from the fact that they will feel problems in repositioning themselves, the notion that the typical 'command and control' cycle is removed, tends to create unease.

Therefore it is perhaps good to understate that the instating principle of 'tranparency' is so important when changing an organization towards agile project management.
The clear and undisputed ability to 'inpsect' project proceedings, allowing for the project to be 'adapted' for its course is in my mind a prerequisite. Building this capability should go hand-in-hand with the change of leadership itself.

June 4, 2012 - 3:29am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Brad, a very nice overview of agile management, addressing the need to adapt leadership style when one wants to make it really work, and not just implement the 'mechanics' (processes). Implementing iterative processes can be done, but do not necessary lead towards real agility.

As you write and as Nirav also suggests in his reaction, the key difficult change to make is the change in culture of management towards real trust and the deeply felt conviction that people who are assigned to a (project) job will in general know how to do it in the best way, when given the right support and context for the job (!!).

The notion of self-steering teams are in many cases a scrare-factor for (project) managers. Apart from the fact that they will feel problems in repositioning themselves, the notion that the typical 'command and control' cycle is removed, tends to create unease.

Therefore it is perhaps good to understate that the instating principle of 'tranparency' is so important when changing an organization towards agile project management.
The clear and undisputed ability to 'inpsect' project proceedings, allowing for the project to be 'adapted' for its course is in my mind a prerequisite. Building this capability should go hand-in-hand with the change of leadership itself.

June 4, 2012 - 3:29am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Brad great article. We had been running Agile development teams in major Australian banks for the last five years including implementing Agile into PMOs and across business. And I agree the biggest change for the project manager is to basically learn to let go and trust your people!

June 4, 2012 - 6:17pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Brad great article. We had been running Agile development teams in major Australian banks for the last five years including implementing Agile into PMOs and across business. And I agree the biggest change for the project manager is to basically learn to let go and trust your people!

June 4, 2012 - 6:17pm

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About the author

Brad  Egeland's picture Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is an IT, project management, and business strategy consultant and author with more than twenty-five years of software development, management, and project management experience leading business and IT initiatives in nearly every industry imaginable.  He works with organizations of all sizes from startups to Fortune 500 leaders and has overseen the creation and execution of multiple PMOs. Brad is married, a father of nine, and lives in Las Vegas, NV. He can be reached at brad@bradegeland.com or you can visit his website at www.bradegeland.com.

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