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Posts tagged ‘Managers’

Agile for managers – Challenges, operation, and impact on leaders

After giving this introduction training to over a hundred people managers, I have decided to make the presentation material available to the general public in an attempt to help organizations successfully transition to Agile.

This presentation is introductory level as it introduces some of the most common reasons why organizations choose to adopt Agile approaches. It presents some high level statistics on software development project success (and failure) to demonstrate why the traditional project management approach may not always be the best approach to successfully deliver projects.

The presentation introduces what Agile is (and isn’t) and the reasons justifying its adoption. Once the Agile concepts have been presented, the material introduces the Scrum approach by giving a walk through of a typical process.

The presentation ends with the main impacts on people managers within organizations who are adopting Agile.

I hope you will find the presentation useful to help you move your transition in the right direction. Feel free to circulate the material.

Between a rock and a hard place – The managers in an agile transition

Image by NCM3I bumped into Steven last week. Steven is director of application development in a large organization and like most manager in his early forty’s, he looked tired and although he is usually a happy individual, his smile wasn’t radiant this time.

In agreement with his teams, Steven initiated an Agile transition a few months ago. I was part of the team who presented to Steven the benefits of a transition and the impact on the team members and their managers. I saw Steven again in a group training I was giving a few weeks after the beginning of the transition to managers and executives. That time again, Steven was very excited and motivated about what he was hearing, except that during the training I could see the light bulbs over his head and in the questions Steven was asking – how is this going to impact my role as a manager? Steven saw the obvious benefits and understood some of the changes he would need to make to his leadership style but I could tell, it hadn’t fully sinked in.

So here we were, less than 3 months in the transition and Steven wasn’t as chipper as he used to be…

  • Me: “Hey, Steven. You look tired. How are you doing?”
  • Steven: “I’m OK… I’m tired… [silence] The transition is killing me!”
  • Me: “How so?” [I asked anticipating what he would tell me next]
  • Steven: “The team is having a blast and I can see their performance has increased compared to the past but I don’t think I can cope with this new approach”
  • Me: “You seemed so excited about the transition when we started. What changed?”
  • Steven: “I now realize what you meant when you talked about changing my leadership style and my role. I’m still up to the challenge but my boss is totally clueless about all of this”
  • Me: “What do you mean? Haven’t you brought him in the loop from the beginning?”
  • Steven: “Yes. Yes, I have but that’s not the problem. The team’s performance increase is directly linked to the new approach they have been using and the fact that I leave them a lot of autonomy but my boss still asks me to behave like I used to – like he manages his team today. That’s where it hurts the most. I can pretty much deal with everything else but I feel like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place”

Unfortunately, we (as consultants) do not do such a good job at highlighting this fact before we begin a transition. We work closely with the teams to help them adopt better methods and practices, to increase their overall performance by allowing them to be self-organized. We work on getting the teams to a highly performing level. Then we go get executive sponsorship to secure the initiative (and the budget) and make sure we get support to handle difficult issues but what about the people in the middle?

We develop training programs for Agile managers and we support them with organizational coaching but we don’t do such a good job at telling them upfront how much pressure they will be under once the transition begins. How much their role is likely to change and their leadership style needs to be adapted to the new reality.

For those who haven’t yet have felt the pressure, here are some examples of what to expect:

  • You may be willing to trust your team and let them self-organize but is your boss in agreement with this new approach? Will he be as involved (micro-managing) in your activities as he used to be? And more importantly, will he be expecting you to be as involved with your team as you used to be?
  • You may be willing to tolerate mistakes in order to increase your team’s learning and with a strategic perspective to increase long term performance but will you hear about your inabilities to control your team during your next performance review?
  • You already produce status reports, dashboards, emails and others information to keep everyone (including your boss) informed of what is going on in your unit. Will you need to translate everything that the Agile team is producing to fit the traditional reporting mechanisms? Can you challenge what information is currently being produced to ensure it does bring value to people?
  • You expect your team members to handle the details of their activities and you believe in actually seeing (touching, feeling) the end results while your management team expects you to assess progress using Gantt charts. Do you need to educate your entire organization to the new approach? Does the fact that you are adopting Agile make you the evangelist for the entire organization?

Obviously, I don’t mean to scare anyone – especially the managers – with regards to adopting Agile. The approach has a lot of merit and value for many organizations but in order to help with adoption, coaches and consultants need to pay attention to the people in the middle and help them find their new place, otherwise we are very likely to find serious resistance and potential failure of such initiatives – nobody likes to be stuck between a rock and a hard place…

Getting Started – Reference Material for Managers Who Wish to Understand Agile and Scrum

Image by DarlingSnailFor those of us who have been working with Agile for a while, the values, the principles, the approach, the methods and the practices are almost second nature but for those who start to enter the Agile world, the ramp up can be challenging – especially if you are looking at all of this from a management position.

After being asked by a few people “Where can I start if I would like to know more about Agile?”, I decided to put together this short list of reference material. There is also a good discussion happening on LinkedIn.

I am missing anything? Is there material you would recommend to managers?

What is Agile?

Agile software development refers to a group of software development methodologies based on iterative development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing cross-functional teams.

The term was coined in the year 2001 when the Agile Manifesto was formulated.

Agile methods generally promote a disciplined project management process that encourages frequent inspection and adaptation, a leadership philosophy that encourages teamwork, self-organization and accountability, a set of engineering best practices intended to allow for rapid delivery of high-quality software, and a business approach that aligns development with customer needs and company goals. (Agile software development – Wikipedia)

“Agile Development” is an umbrella term for several iterative and incremental software development methodologies. The most popular agile methodologies include Extreme Programming (XP), Scrum, Crystal, Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM), Lean Development, and Feature-Driven Development (FDD).

While each of the agile methods is unique in its specific approach, they all share a common vision and core values (see the Agile Manifesto). They all fundamentally incorporate iteration and the continuous feedback that it provides to successively refine and deliver a software system. They all involve continuous planning, continuous testing, continuous integration, and other forms of continuous evolution of both the project and the software. They are all lightweight (especially compared to traditional waterfall-style processes), and inherently adaptable. As important, they all focus on empowering people to collaborate and make decisions together quickly and effectively. (Agile 101: What is Agile Development? | VersionOne)

Just what is agile software development? In 2001, a group of methodologists got together to agree on a common set of guiding principles around effective software development. Rather than summarize their agreements here, I’ll point you to their “agile manifesto”.

From a pure definition standpoint, agile is a conceptual framework generally centered on iterative and incremental delivery of working software, driven by the customer. The iterative part suggests that we are repeating, or iterating, a complete lifecycle of development over a short, fixed span of time. With each of these iterations, we ship some working subset, or increment, of features. (A Brief Introduction to Agile — Developer.com)

What is Scrum?

Scrum is an agile approach to software development. Rather than a full process or methodology, it is a framework. So instead of providing complete, detailed descriptions of how everything is to be done on the project, much is left up to the team. This is done because the team will know best how to solve its problem. (Introduction to Scrum – An Agile Process)

Scrum is an iterative, incremental framework for project management and agile software development. Although the word is not an acronym, some companies implementing the process have been known to spell it with capital letters as SCRUM. This may be due to one of Ken Schwaber’s early papers, which capitalized SCRUM in the title.

Although Scrum was intended for management of software development projects, it can be used to run software maintenance teams, or as a general project/program management approach. (Scrum (development) – Wikipedia)

Scrum is an agile framework for completing complex projects. Scrum originally was formalized for software development projects, but works well for any complex, innovative scope of work. The possibilities are endless. (Scrum Alliance -What Is Scrum?)

The Scrum Roles

Scrum has three roles: Product Owner, ScrumMaster, and Team. (Scrum Alliance -Scrum Roles)

Tips for an Agile Transition

Perhaps, but not necessarily. Pilot projects are commonly done for two reasons: To see if something will work or to learn how to make it work. By now, enough other companies—very likely including some of your competitors—are using agile approaches like Scrum that there is no longer any question of if it works. The real question most organizations face is how to make agile or Scrum work for them. One or more pilot projects can be very helpful in providing those answers. (Transitioning to Agile)

Organizational Impact of an Agile Transition

When development teams adopt agile practices, product management is often caught off guard by the amount of work added to their already overflowing plate. Agile calls for new product management skills and traditional staffing models do not typically accommodate the new product owner role. Given that most product managers are already overworked, how can they manage these new activities to derive more value from software projects and products? (InfoQ: How Product Management Must Change to Enable the Agile Enterprise)

Agile methodologies are helping software organizations stay competitive by delivering products more frequently and with significantly higher quality. Making the switch to agile development also challenges traditional notions of project management, introducing new ways of managing time, cost and scope. Learn how to successfully manage agile projects with the resources below. (Agile White Paper: The Agile Project Manager | VersionOne)

When an organization starts to explore Scrum, there’s often an uncomfortable moment early on when someone points out that the role of “manager” seems to be missing entirely. “Well I guess we’ll have to just get rid of ‘em all!” wisecracks one of the developers, and all the managers in the room shift uncomfortably in their seats. (Scrum Alliance -Manager 2.0: The Role of the Manager in Scrum)

About Agile Coaching

Agile methodologies introduce a newer role, typically called the “Agile Coach” that traditional methodologies will not focus on, or even mention. For those who have been working in an agile way for some time, it may seem like a natural complement, yet for those newer to this way of working it raises many questions like, “What’s so important about an Agile Coach: What’s wrong with a Line Manager, or a Team or Technical Lead: Why does Monster.com list 54 positions with this title:” (InfoQ: The Agile Coach, from A to Z)

Market Trends

Gartner’s analysts (Thomas Murphy and David Norton) predict that by 2012 “agile development methods will be utilized in 80% of all software development projects”. The authors explain that although Scrum will continue gaining in popularity over the coming years, organizations will not be successful in their transition unless they move toward a team-focused culture (Gartner Predicts 2010: Agile and Cloud Impact Application Development Directions | Analytical-Mind)

In their recently released study “Agile Development: Mainstream Adoption Has Changed Agility“, Forrester reports that “35% of respondents stated that Agile most closely reflects their development process”. The report is based on Forrester’s/Dr. Dobbs Global Developer Technographics Survey, Q3, 2009, which surveyed 1298 application development professionals. (Forrester Reports “Agile Development: Mainstream Adoption Has Changed Agility” | Analytical-Mind)

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