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What consultants don’t tell you before you begin an agile transition – Part 3: Impact on the functional and people managers

As a follow up to my previous posts (part 1 and part 2), this third post in a series of 4 short articles written in collaboration with my colleagues Stéphane LécuyerJean-René RousseauSylvie TrudelJoël Grenon, and Eric Laramée, addresses the impact of an Agile transition on the functional and people managers.

Transforming the Managers

In an Agile transition, it is necessary to work closely with the various people managers to help them truly understand and assimilate the principles related to Agile so they can integrate them into their actions. Based on our experience, in addition to team coaches we recommend the use of organizational coaches to help managers change some of their management approaches and use a leadership style that is more appropriate for the new Agile teams.

The transition to a new style of leadership is not limited to software development teams, it also applies to the interactions and relationships with the managers of the business groups – typically the product owners.

Getting managers to become more Agile requires changing behaviors and using a more democratic approach to management. More specifically, the people managers need to:

  • behave more Agilely by transferring certain power to the teams members themselves and to let them determine how best to accomplish their tasks;
  • empower their teams through self-organization and commitment to results;
  • transfer decision-making to individuals who are closest to the activities;
  • demonstrate greater receptivity to ideas and innovation emerging from their teams;
  • clearly define the desired vision;
  • adapt to the context of each team to ensure alignment with the overall objective;
  • ensure cohesion between the teams and their members;
  • capture the strategic objectives of the transition in order to demonstrate the importance of the project;
  • support the sense of urgency;
  • provide the necessary resources so they can position themselves as leaders in this transition;
  • accept and publicly endorse the idea that the status quo is not acceptable and that the old methods are no longer adapted to the new reality.

In this context, the managers themselves become change agents within their department and in the organization to;

  • integrate those who are convinced to take part in the center of expertise;
  • systematically involve business people in the transition;
  • adapt their style of management when necessary to use an inclusive and democratic approach.

In this perspective, the ‘command and control’ management style needs to evolve into a servant leadership so that contributors can take responsibility and demonstrate stewardship. The intend is to be supportive through tangible measures so the team members can quickly adopt new ways of doing things.

It is worth asking what approach will be used to achieve such a transition for managers. With the experience gained during our previous mandates, we recommend to use the following means to achieve the desired results:

  • awareness of the managers of the requirements related to an Agile transition through appropriate training;
  • creation of groups (communities) of interest to share learning, fear, reactions, etc.;
  • implementing individual meetings or group meetings with different stakeholders to understand the fears, their challenges, their resistance and provide the necessary support to help;
  • provide an organizational coach to individuals or groups who require special attention during the transition;
  • identification of committees where the presence of the coach is required to help move the transition forward;
  • establishing and defining the parameters required to support new objectives related to the transition;
  • preparation and dissemination of communications about the progress of the project.

In next week’s post, we will explain in Part 4: Why a coach is useful for a successful Agile transition.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Old doesn’t mean bad.

    “ …that the old methods are no longer adapted to the new reality.”

    Let me add a bit more nuance regarding this statement…

    A lot of the “old” or currently used methods used in an organization for software development are more often than not, quite “Agile” Thankfully, common sense does tend to seep into the everyday lives of dev teams and managers and they do come up with cool and innovative ways to getting things done.

    The goal is not throw the baby out with the bath water, but to identify those old but sound practices that work and bring them to the next level since good is the enemy of great.

    A good complement to this post is Esther Derby’s “The Three Pillars of Executive Support for Agile Adoption” ( )


    March 15, 2010

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