What is the role of a manager in Agile project? Do we need Manager at all?

 

A switch from waterfall to agile project and suddenly you would start seeing whole new world. Is this shift complicated? How can I be successful as manager in agile project? How does it defer from traditional methodology?  And there are many more questions which every manager who starts with agile project or managers already part of agile project come up with.  Most importantly what is my ROLE?  Lets explore

As a manager, when you get into a project you want to manage the day to day deliverables and processes but wait that’s a job of a scrum master, you move on to prioritize the work but that’s again product owner owns. Wow, then you jump on to assign work and get involved in day to day activities but wait again, isn’t your teams are self-organizing?

By heart, I am a software engineer. Can I code? Off course you can if you don’t have any other work and moreover you are expected to become a team member.  Frustrating, well yes and no. If you are quite adamant and not ready to unlearn some of the traditional practices as manager, you would be biggest bottleneck in getting your project successful.  You can’t do many things in agile while you can control everything by keeping some distance while taking complete ownership.

As a manager, I would suggest you to do the following

  • Motivate team – Constantly encourage your team members. Agile focus on every individual and a motivated team member can do wonders. If you are thinking of spoon feeding agile member then either the member has too many challenges or you are not a right manager.
  • Celebrate victories – Find an opportunity to celebrate your victories. Even if that are small as every celebration would enhance your team motivation and bring in lots of energy to system.
  • Focus on business priorities – Constantly focus on your business priorities, contribute in vision, drive vision by ensuring work gets done, keep abreast with business demand. Learn domain and make your team gain expertise over that. Build a model to train new joiners quickly. Encourage collaboration and encourage teams to discuss the business.
  • Be open – This is one of the biggest challenge I see in this industry. You don’t want to hurt anybody and with that you always go with giving positive feedback. Remember the areas of improvement and constructive feedback helps an individual to grow. You are supporting short term growth by killing his/her long term growth as well as organization priorities. You need to constantly strive to build your team and focus on every individual to be successful. More you focus on people, better off your results are. Rate your people as they are. You need to motivate your high performers and bring you low performers to get better. Always remember that you need to get better constantly.
  • Generate Metrics and constantly monitor them – The world is not perfect place. Teams which are doing amazing, may go down. Constantly monitor productivity, prod issues, defect rate and whatever is important in your organization.
  • Trust team and encourage the culture of trusting people – In my experience, if you have an average team, and that team trust each other and ready to support each other, they would end up doing much more and better compare to your star team where you see conflicts. I have seen multiple examples in past where the whole team gel extremely well and the result you see are outstanding. Not just project did the best in those scenarios while the whole team has gotten bigger rewards and great careers.  The dedication to team result in delivering values. This holds true all the times.
  • Invest in resources – Hire best talent. Further send them for trainings, Encourage cross KT culture, plan their travel if their teams are in different country city, constantly keep in touch with them and make them feel that the org does care for them. Many a times in bigger organization individuals are lost while it is primary responsibility of a project manager to ensure they are being taken care of. One of the tool I used heavily is to ask individuals their aspirations and constantly seek opportunities to fulfill them. You may not be able to do it all but creating a path is kind of easy. In fact, many a times I see individual aspirations are so easy that it can be fulfilled in no time and little effort.
  • Process improvements – Let scrum master handles processes while constantly review to see what improvements can be made further. Improving on test coverage, adhering to standard practices, encouraging people to take risks etc. For instance you see all retrospective items are great while after a meeting we don’t do anything about it (Unfortunately most agile team has this challenge). Well, here you can have action items and ask team to assign that. The next retrospective should start with older action items. You can always work with scrum master to get processes better.
  • 1×1 Meetings – This is very powerful tool. As a manager, I would strongly recommend you to keep talking to team members. Appreciate them for their great work. Constantly provide feedback on areas they should get better. Understand their perspective and identify action items for you. Make yourself available for team all the times. I am being often told by managers coming from traditional model that don’t be easily available for your team as you may end up doing more and people won’t value you. I am completely against of that idea. I think you should meet up your team as much as you can.
  • Empowerment – Find right people and empower them to do certain things. Build your next set of leaders. Trust people. If you manage multiple agile teams then build leader within each team and empower them. Practically you shouldn’t be very busy all the times. You should  be available for your team as soon as possible when they need you.
  • Improve system – You should be constantly looking at everything in the system and find opportunities to improve them. Improving productivity, quality, trust, competence, delivery, processes and many more.
  • Seek challenges – The seeking challenges is always better option over embracing challenges. You should be constantly seeking challenges and building the same culture around that.
  • Fun place to work– Create an environment where everyone feels like coming to office. There should be lots of fun. Believe in starting your day with fun and it should be throughout. Don’t have a constraint that I would allow you to have fun when we achieve something. Although you do celebrate every victory but fun is something should be there all the times.

Always remember that things which you can do directly, that’s great while things or tasks which agile doesn’t allow you to do it, get yourself involved indirectly and get them accomplished. At the end of day, your biggest priority is make your team successful. If you can achieve that, rest all fall in place.

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