Although there is no role of the manager in Scrum, it does not mean you have to give a notice to all managers.

With Agile many issues are going to be detected on which the development teams will not always have the power to take care of. This creates a space for a manager who, in agile environments, moves from a decision making and delegating activities towards leadership and team support.

Responsibility of manager in an agile company

  • Coordination of resources, capacities, and needs of the other related teams.
  • Risk management of the project.
  • To escalate the problems team cannot solve.
  • Financial matters, rewarding.
  • Career Development of team members.
  • Communication with other parts of the company.
  • Coordination of the research & development with the business.
  • Standards, guidelines, minimum requirements.
  • Tools and their licensing.
  • Work environment.
  • Work equipment.
  • Hiring, firing.

Agile thinking and manager

  1. Set the team for success.
  2. Be a servant-leader.
  3. Integrate continuous improvements (Kaizen) thinking with root cause analysis and an optimization of the system of work.
  4. Encourage, do not command.
  5. Set a team boundaries for the interactions.
  6. Build a trust and confidence within the team and outside of the team.
  7. Support people’s willingness to go for a change.
  8. Become a coach.
  9. Remove restrictions.
  10. Support a community of the functional managers.
  11. Understand and get the most out of Agile.
  12. Focus on strategic rather than tactical level.
  13. Encourage team members and celebrate the successes.
  14. Give constructive feedback to the team.

The manager in the agile environment should create conditions which support agile team:

  1. Modular architecture with small dependencies.
  2. Writing code standards.
  3. Design review and code review.
  4. Refactoring as a habit.
  5. Configuration management and versioning.
  6. Unit tests automation.
  7. STOP if tests fail.
  8. Continuous Integration.
  9. Acceptance tests automation.
  10. System testing/acceptance tests – early and often.
  11. Deployment versions automation.
  12. Analysis of the leaked bugs and feedback.

Behaviour of the manager in an agile company

As a manager, you should stand back during the sprint. Cooperate more with the ScrumMaster and Product Owner. The team needs to have space. As manager of an agile team, you will get an insight into problems of the team by an observation.

From this observation, ideas how to streamline product production will emerge. In the production this technique is known as Gemba walk – the manager is where the work is. It is not uncommon for even such managers that they are on the work field most of their time. They observe a work, not people. They observe the empty places on the line, unnecessary inventory, machinery, value stream.

The manager in an agile environment should act in the same way.

Manager in the agile company replaces command & control style with an empowerment & leadership. You should try to ensure that teams have:

  • a purpose,
  • an autonomy,
  • and the possibility to improve mastership.

The manager should be trustworthy. It is much more important in agile as transparency is very high and people will be motivated to work hard. If you lose trust, they will stop the change happening.

The manager in agile company asks a lot. Not to hear the answer, but to raise an awareness of those who were asked.

Manager and Scrum Masters

An important responsibility of the manager is close collaboration with ScrumMasters. There should be regular sessions where ScrumMasters and managers identify and remove bottlenecks of teams, identify common patterns, analyze them and implement improvements. For transparency, these activities are often tracked on Improvements kanban board.

Managers should work with ScrumMasters on change implementation. The change of mindset towards agile mindset via lean change management, open spaces, hackathons, leading communities, etc.

Another important aspect is system thinking. ScrumMasters are more focused on teams, therefore, they do not have a lot of time for system optimization. Especially when agile is new in the company.  That’s the place for the management to lead initiatives that focus on system thinking, built-in integrity, empowering teams and eliminating waste.

Reference: Poppendieck and Poppendieck – “Lean Basic Disciplines” assessment