Sunday, July 5, 2015

Do not create unnecessary fear and animosity with Development Managers

During agile transitions, the Development Manager often feels like an outcast.

I'd like to present an important discussion to have with Development Managers, especially the ones that go out of their way to help and not hinder.

Most Development Managers have their positions because they know something about development. I have yet to find one that does not care about the people that work with them (or for them). They have usually built relationships with those they work with.

Assume the following scenario for discussion purposes;
  • The Development Manager is openly supportive of the changes to occur (and is sincere).
  • Support is both top-down and bottom-up.
  • A coaching team is put together to help (some external, some internal coaches).
  • It has been decided (let's just assume for a good reason), the company will be using Scrum.
Cross-functional teams are formed and the people will go through the Tuckman model of Team formation: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.  

The Development Manager is encouraged to allow the teams to grow organically. He understands that a high-performing team arises from a group of people working hard to solve problems on their own. 

Image "Team" by Dawn (Wills) Manser under a CC 2.0 license

As teams grow, they build confidence and seem to become self-contained, and almost insular to some. This is normal and is not a sign of dysfunction. This simply indicates that the team is starting to have  self identity. They are starting to act as a team. This is a good sign.

Eventually, the team will mature to a point where they realize they need outside help to act effectively in a larger organization.

Something is happening.. The Development Manager is starting to feel disconnected from the team and the work.  

As the teams become more effective, the Development Manager feels more loss.

Put yourself in the position where (through all your good intentions), you no longer feel you have relationships with the people that used to report to you. 

Consider the agile value "People and Interactions".  


Ideas for Coaches and Scrum Masters

If you are coaching, once the team has achieved a certain level of self-awareness and autonomy, remind them that the Development Manager is a person and...

There is No rule in Scrum or the Agile Manifesto  that says "team members may not talk to a manager". 

I have coached several pre-existing teams coached by others, that have been very happy to learn this. Do not assume this is known.

Potential discussions with Teams:
  • Thank the Development Manager for the support. 
  • If you have trust with the team, ask them if they would like to invite their manager to their next team lunch or get-together.
  • Next time the team needs help, consider asking the Development Manager for an idea! 
  • Be inventive. I've seen all kinds of interesting things.  One of the coolest was a manager who was brought in as an SME by the request of the team for a strange product the manager had worked on in in the past. This helped to create a feeling of contribution and trust.

Discussion with the Development Manager:
  • Talk about what the manager should expect and how the team will evolve. 

  • Do not simply assume that a manager new to Scrum or Agile will know this if they have never experienced it. 
The team will "come back to them" as they mature.  The manager needs to know they will still have personal bonds with their peers in the future. 

This feeling will pass as the team realizes it needs others to succeed in the organization. 

Scrum Masters or Coaches have an important responsibility here; To recognize this as a time to build bridges. Hopefully you have been spending time teaching and coaching servant leadership to the Development Manager so they can provide the appropriate guidance and support. 

When I'm with an account, I find it respectful to explain to the Development Manager that there is a natural evolution for a team, and they should expect some sense of personal loss at first.

Awareness is always a better approach than surprise. Surprise creates fear and animosity. 

Development Managers can enjoy learning new skills, or new approaches to leading and working. However, they are unlikely to be in such a frame of mind if they feel like outcasts. 

Consider the importance of transparency and openness about team evolution, and that it makes no sense that all the skills and knowledge of the Development Manager should be ignored or dismissed.

A Development Manager who knows and understands this natural evolution of teams will appreciate the knowledge. This is a far more desirable approach than an unnecessary feeling of loss.


Mike Caspar
Passionate About Agile


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