One thing we don’t realize immediately when starting an Agile transformation is the profound impact it has on the organization; therefore, on the managers composing it. As long as we stay focused on a single team with its Scrum Master and Product Owner, the impact of Agility on the organization is not so tangible. In fact, it can be easy for the manager not to change his or her habits. However, as soon as we want to expand Agility to other teams, we discover that the manager’s role must evolve to support them.

Take delegation, for instance. All managers delegate to their teams, whether tasks or broader objectives; it’s a matter of survival! Yet, the manager remains liable in the eyes of the organization for the successful completion of these tasks or objectives. As long as this is the case, it will be difficult for teams to actually assume their self-organization and be able to make decisions and take responsibility for them.

It is also the case for other activities that are traditionally associated with managers (e.g., recruitment and evaluation processes, vacation and work space management). When teams have reached a certain maturity level regarding self-organization, it becomes useful for managers to question themselves. Between the manager and the team, who brings the highest value in achieving these activities? What are the benefits if the team takes charge of these activities?

These are all elements that will help teams make the relevant decisions in order to increase the members’ commitment to their team and their organization and to ultimately deliver more value. Of course, the possible level of delegation is based on several factors: the team’s maturity level, but also that of management, organizational constraints, and current level of transparency. We must learn to play with the polarity between intervention and laissez-faire.

The Delegation Poker game used in Management 3.0 can help make decisions more transparently. In a self-organization context, the role of management is crucial even if it has to fundamentally change, since it will help to reverse the culture. The efforts of the organization are now to the service of those who create software and value; that is, the teams, and not the opposite. Managers will work to remove the impediments that the development teams meet and, at the same time, they will help them get closer to clients and users by optimizing communication channels. They will also help producers and creators focus on their own field of expertise by providing a supportive environment while allowing them to work on relevant and high-quality products that meet the clients’ needs.

Finally, the manager’s role will evolve from being in charge of results to being in charge of the environment. He’ll become a servant leader to the team to help them achieve the goals of the organization. This transfer of responsibility and these new objectives will have to be formalized and recognized in the organization if we want this new culture to become reality.

The concept of delegation takes on a broader meaning here, as in not only delegating the execution, but also the responsibility of it. It is possible that certain managers are not able to make changes to their role, that they are not ready to make it evolve, or that they simply do not want to change it. They may feel a certain loss of power or they may be questioning themselves about the relevance of their role in the organization. This change is not easy to implement; but as with change management, it should be explained, communicated, planned and coached transparently. Again and again…

guillaume soyer

Project and IT team manager since 1999, Guillaume holds PMP and Scrum Master certifications. Having acted as developer, integrator, architect, project manager and manager of quality assurance as well as research and development teams, he masters the mechanics of software development.

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