Managers may not be forgotten in an agile transformation, but their roles and responsibilities may change as the organization adopts agile frameworks. Too often when engaging at a team or organizational level, the manager has not been asked to change, but the world around them has.
Agile emphasizes self-organizing teams and collaboration across all levels of an organization, so traditional command-and-control management styles are no longer effective. This can leave those individuals feeling left out or unsure of where they fit in the new Agile environment. However, it's important to recognize that managers still play a crucial role in supporting and enabling agile teams.
Why do managers struggle in the transition from a traditional to an Agile environment?
Lack of understanding
Agile transformations can be complex and require a deep understanding of the principles and frameworks involved. If there is too much focus on the teams or even senior leadership, and mid-level managers are not included, their lack of understanding Agile may make them feel excluded from the process.
Resistance to change
Managers may be resistant to change, especially if they are used to a more traditional management style. They may feel that Agile is a threat to their authority or that they will lose control of their employees or team(s). After all, up to this point of change, many managers are promoted due to being a highly successful individual contributor.
Lack of training
Many leaders today often lack adequate training on how to lead people. Coupled with the transition from a traditional manager to an Agile manager, where focus is on people vs. owning or doing the work within a team, it can be a recipe for frustration.
Agile transformations require effective communication at all levels of the organization. If managers are not included in the communication process, they may feel like they are not part of the transformation. Too often, transformations can focus so much attention on the teams and rightfully so due to the impact it is going to have on them. However, managers are just as important in the transformation process and even more so in helping enable effective Agile teams.
Lack of Manager involvement
As mentioned earlier, the role of a manager fundamentally changes when transitioning to an Agile environment. Yet, too often what is lost is the connection between how we are now asking managers to focus on the people and how in their role as a manager, they can lead and model the change. The relationship, or lack of, between a manager and employee can directly affect the employees engagement and their ability to buy into the change taking place around them.
Overall, agile transformations require a shift in mindset and culture, and managers have an important role to play in enabling and supporting these changes. Therefore, it's essential to involve managers in the transformation process, help them understand their new roles and responsibilities, and provide them with the training and support they need to succeed in an Agile environment.
In the next post in this series of The Forgotten Role in Agile, we’ll walk through helpful tips to make a successful transition for managers moving from a traditional environment to an Agile one.