Manifesto for Agile Line Managers

Managers? There’s no Managers in Scrum!

Its true the Scrum Guide makes no provisions for Managers, and really in single team Scrum (in a vacuum) there isn’t a need for a manager at all. However, the reality of most situations is that there will be management around any given Scrum team. Most Scrum teams are transformations in traditional organizations, which comes with management. Most organizations still require someone with the title of “Manager” to handle HR tasks like hiring and firing, approving time off, doing wage adjustments, etc. In certain scaling frameworks, this is even recognized and suggestions are made to ensure teams are able to self-organize and take control of what they do.

In LeSS, this is the concept of the “Line Manager”. They suggest a 100-to-1 ratio for each line manager, with the thinking that if a Line Manager has that many people to support, they will be too busy to interfere in the day to day operations of teams.  However, this doesn’t always happen over night (or at all), and managers may have the time and capability to be involved with team operations. In Agile, we recognize that many “traditional” management activities in Waterfall actually can be detrimental to a Scrum team.

OK, but a Manifesto?

I’ve recently been thinking quite a lot about the line manager, and how to help “command & control”-aholics kick the habit and act in a manner that will help uplift and grow teams. I did some google searches, and looked through various other sources, but I didn’t see anything that I liked, that I could provide to a line manager to use as I personally use the Agile Manifesto; something which helps codify where value is found, and what principles I believe lead to effectiveness.

So, I did what most people would: I created my own. I cribbed off of the Agile Manifesto, and came up with my own “Manifesto for Agile Line Managers”.  Now, I’m not a line manager, so I expect I probably got it wrong. I hope, having been in positions of authority, and having coached people in those positions, I’m not too far off.

I would have preferred to have taken a bunch of successful Agile Line Managers up to Snowbird, Utah and locked them in a room for a few days to come up with it, but A) I don’t have that kind of money or time, and B) I don’t know that many successful Agile Line Managers.  So I look to the community. I will cast out what I have created, hoping it sparks discussion, or at least one or two people find it useful.

All right then, let’s have it!

OK, here goes:

Manifesto for Agile Line Managers

We learn and discover better ways to allow teams to develop software in line with the Agile Manifesto for Software Development. We therefore have come to value:

Enabling Learning over Enforcing Rules

Empowering Teams over Insuring Delivery

Providing Vision over Delivering Directives

Taking Measured Risk over Avoiding Failure

While we can have success and find value in ideas on the right, we believe the ideas on the left will lead to greater overall success.

Principles behind Agile Line Management

Our highest priority is to enable Agile teams to deliver valuable software early and often.

We welcome changes to processes and rules, even long-standing ones. Agile teams learn by doing, and we must harness this change for the good of the organization.

Act quickly on required changes. Items which disempower teams will quickly cause loss of motivation and flow.

Managers and teams must collaborate to solve issues in ways that are both effective and understood.

Allow motivated individuals to form teams to deliver great results. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

The most effective method of communication is in person. Face to face communication and highly visible physical artifacts promote and enhance transparency and trust.

High functioning teams delivering working software is the primary measure of effectiveness of an Agile Line Manager.

Agile Line Managers enable sustainable development, through enabling learning and empowering teams to set a constant pace balancing growth, development and support.

Agile Line Managers allow teams to exercise technical excellence, and provide teams with the ability and support to continue to improve technical skills to enhance team Agility.

Simplicity in Management is essential to self-organization. Always apply the least amount of authority possible, with a bias towards empowerment and encouraging learning.

The best teams, rules, and procedures emerge in self-organizing organizations.

At regular intervals, Agile Line Management teams review their effectiveness, and reflect on the results of their actions, then use this reflection to adjust and tune behavior and technique.

That’s it?

That’s it. It’s not a replacement for the Agile Manifesto, rather and enhancement and refocusing of ideas towards Managers (or others with positional authority) working with Agile teams. I welcome your feedback, and hope it may be found useful by someone.  It’s probably not the last iteration of this idea either, I’m just one person, but maybe it gets people talking, and maybe as a community we come up with something great.

I’ll put image versions below. Please feel free to iterate on them, and share as you see fit.