What Is the Role of Management in Agile?
Agile methods rarely describe roles that match those of a traditional manager. Some organizations make it a selling point that they have no managers. There is a trend toward flatter organizations where many traditional management decisions fall to employee teams.
While some organizations consider managers to be “overhead,” others argue that their supervisors have value and help make people work more effectively.
One thing that gives managers a bad reputation is micromanaging rather than delegating. Having an agile self-organizing team is a way to address the downside of command-and-control management. Providing direction is useful, but it’s important for leaders to realize that setting a goal is different from deciding how the team—and each person on it—will reach the goal.
Aside from staying out of the way and doing nothing, what makes a good agile manager? For one thing, good managers work behind the scenes to remove obstacles. Managers can help a team be more effective by encouraging (and reminding) team members to stay current with technology and learn new skills.
Practices like one-on-one meetings fit nicely into the flow of agile projects and work to help any kind of team be more productive. The excellent book Behind Closed Doors describes others.
It’s important to remember that management is a role that is not necessarily more important than non-management roles on the team. It’s hard to avoid falling in to a traditional manager role, especially for those who came up through the ranks to become leaders. Even if you're a manager by virtue of time or experience, you can still learn a lot; managers need to take advantage of what they can learn from their employees.
Agile management, rather than being an oxymoron, can help a team work better and deliver more effectively, which is, after all, one of the goals of using an agile approach.