Leading Agile Teams Requires a Shift

agile leadership agile teams

By Ryan Fullmer

September 25, 2022

Adopting agile is a journey. A journey that requires you to change the way you manage and lead. Traditional ways of leading can undermine your team's ability to be agile. Your agile teams need you to show up differently. Your teams don’t want you to show up as the Hovering Manager, the Solution Expert or the Standardization Cop.

Let’s take a look at each of these.

Hovering Manager

Don't be the Hovering Manager to your agile teams. Always hanging around the team. Showing up to every meeting and jumping in to "save the day" when the team encounters a problem. Even with the best of intentions, being overly involved with the team erodes their ability to self-organize.

Here are some things you can do to shift from being the Hovering Manager:

  1. Provide clarity
    • Collaborate with the team to ensure clarity on the problem to be solved and the outcomes that need to be achieved.
  2. Support autonomy
    • Empower them to make decisions and give them time to figure it out.
  3. Trust the team
    • Step back, trust them to get it done, and give them space.

Solution Expert

Don’t be the Solution Expert for your teams. When you hold on to being the technical and knowledge expert, you handicap the team. You slow them down and prevent them from doing their best work. They lose confidence and become dependent on you to solve the tough problems. The team isn’t able to realize their full potential.

Here are some things you can do to shift from being the Solution Expert:

  1. Let the team figure it out
    • Don’t get involved in the details and figuring out solutions.
  2. Let the team do the work
    • Don’t take tasks that the team could be doing, even when you may have the most experience.
  3. Enable the team to be the experts
    • Help the team gain the knowledge and develop the skills they need to be successful.
  4. Be available to support the team
    • When they ask for help, take a coaching stance to support them in discovering their own solutions.

Standardization Cop

Don't be the Standardization Cop to your agile teams. This happens when you make sure all the teams are doing agile the same way for the sake of standardization. You put up roadblocks when teams want to make changes to processes and practices. This prevents the team from growing, improving, and doing what's needed to get better results.

Here are some things you can do to shift from being the Standardization Cop:

  1. Decide together
    • Collaborate with the team to decide on how things will be done. Explain the new practices and provide clarity to what you want to accomplish. Build buy-in and alignment.
  2. Provide flexibility
    • It can be helpful to start with doing agile practices and processes the same way. This helps with learning. After that, allow teams the flexibility to experiment and do things differently to grow and improve.
  3. Establish communities of practice
    • Allow these communities to share learning, mature practices and make pivots to improve results.

Create an Environment For Success

The key to success with Agile is not that you adopted an agile framework and a set of new processes. Success is that people in the organization have a new mindset and approach to understanding customer needs, experimenting with solutions, and delivering real value. It’s about being agile as well as doing agile.

By intentionally making these shifts, you free your teams to BE agile. You create an environment for success where your teams are empowered and embrace the agile mindset and approach to deliver value.

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