Sunday, 8 June 2014

To Lead is Agile

Attending the Scrum Alliance Regional Scrum Gathering in Shanghai (www.scrumgathering.cn) this week the opening Key Note by Harvey Wheaton from Scrum Alliance addressed the role of leaders in Agile. Historically there has been the perception that managers and leaders do not have a role in an Agile team. Harvey's opening addressed some ways that leaders can be Agile.  I felt this was a very good opening to the conference as this is a topic that I am very passionate about.  I had many conversations with conference attendees, speakers, and business partners during the two days of the conference about the importance of leaders in Agile.

In both my own experience and that of many peers and colleagues I am aware of many Agile initiatives that never got off the ground because of a lack of leadership buy-in.  Ideally Scrum teams self-organize, but this often leaves managers and leaders feeling that they are left out.  The managers then often become reactive and in response oppose the Agile project or completely shut it down.

A better model is to include leaders in Agile plans up front.  To make key leaders in the organisation fans and sponsors of the Agile program.  After all there needs to be someone to champion the cause of the Agile team with upper management, someone to express the significant business value of an Agile approach.  A 2008 QSM Associates Agile Impact Report indicates Agile leads to 25% increased productivity, 50% faster time to market, 83% stakeholder satisfaction, and 49% less cost.

Managers are also needed to help Agile team members to build a career path in the company, to track against budgets, to address legal contracts with vendors, and to help coordinate across large programs that include many Agile teams. Managers for example can help to foster Communities of Practice where developers, testers, UX Designers and others can collaborate across the organisation and help to elevate Agile practices. 

When Agile teams and leaders collaborate the results can be exceptional and beautiful.  Software and products that are delivered to market quickly.  Business results in terms of more revenue for the company or organisation, happy teams, and servant leaders who grow to provide vision and support for their teams.  In this model everyone wins.  The key point for the Agile team here is that management and business leaders should be the Agile Team's best friends, and not perceived as the the enemy of the Agile Team.

Until next time, have a great weekend from Shanghai,
John.