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.




The Case for Dedicated Scrum Masters

“All our Scrum Master, Bob, does is sit around all sprint. I mean, he’s there for our Daily Scrums, and Sprint Planning. He goes to our Sprint Review and watches the stakeholders, and he asks a lot of questions in our Retrospectives, but what does he do the rest of the time? It’s not like he’s writing code…”

Have you heard something similar to that before? Maybe even said it yourself?  It’s a pretty common refrain, and one of the driving forces behind the idea that we can have part time Scrum Masters, and still be as effective as we think we should be.  Continue reading

Zan’s Sprint Challenge 10/20/15: Practice Simplification to Improve Agility

It’s time for another Zan’s Challenge! These challenges are still to help spur your thoughts, strengthen your skills, or open your mind to new possibilities in Agile.

Today’s Challenge: Practice Simplification to Improve Agility

One of the core principles behind the Agile Manifesto is Simplicity:

Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential.

In order to succeed, we all must learn to simplify what we are doing. It is never enough to just attack all the tasks and problems we may be faced with each day. There just are not enough hours in the day. We have to simplify the work we do, ensuring we get what needs to be done, done.

Here are some tips for simplification:

  • Make a priority list: It’s important to know what is the most important thing to be done is. Figure out what must be done first.
  • Understand the goal: If you don’t know what the goal is, and why the goal is important, you won’t know what to simplify.
  • Check your status often: Once you start doing things in their order of priority, check in as you complete tasks and see if you have met the goal. Sometimes, you’ll find the goal actually met, and you won’t need some of the tasks you thought you did at first! Other times, you may need to alter your expected tasks once you have new information. Either way, eliminating unnecessary tasks leads to simplification.

Good luck with this challenge. Please let me know your results, what you think of this challenge, and if you have any ideas for future Zan’s Challenges!

8/31/15: No New Weekly Challenge This Week

Hey folks, because I feel transparency is very important, and I want to keep it as the goal as my teams go through their cooldown and restart period, there is not a new weekly challenge this week (I promise it’s not just me being lazy…maybe). Keep working on transparency this week!

I’m going to try to do a marathon post to finish up the agile manifesto, since I’ve been slacking there (no really, actually a lot of stuff going on lately, not just me being lazy).  Please let me know in the comments if there are any topics you’d like me to cover in a post!