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The “Manager’s Card”

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There is nothing like a good long run for clear thinking and giving rise to new ideas. This post is a result of my weekend run, and it’s about managers and why it is so hard to impact their mindset in the Agile journey.

The idea originated as a result of my experience working with this company where the managers find it extremely difficult to relate to the newly formed scrum teams and instead keep communicating with their original teams (Dev and QA teams) and at the same time keep complaining about how the “scrum teams” are not accountable for their end-to-end deliveries.

This made me think about one of the first things we do when implementing Agile in organizations:  restructure teams to include developers and testers together as one scrum team focused on delivery.

What we DON’T do very often is align the entire organization hierarchy with the same focus in mind.

Instead, we keep the old “Dev managers” and “QA managers” concept. The result is that although the teams are focusing on high quality delivery, the organization is still promoting managers in respect to their specific expertise (usually technological/functional) and so the managers find it difficult to focus on end-to-end processes.

This way it is many times too easy and tempting for the managers to “draw the manager’s card” in front of their original team and make decisions that are not aligned with the Agile culture.

Teams get contradicting messages and are in constant confusion. And so are their managers.

I think this is the time to challenge the organizational hierarchy comfort zone and think different.

If the organization wishes to focus on frequent high quality delivery, managers should manage whole group of scrum teams (DEV and QA) with the end-to-end process in mind and be assisted with a high qualified group of experts from different disciplines (architects, developers, qa, and more). No other team definition exist. No more confusion.

This is very similar to the structure of user stories and tasks. Tasks (like experts) are like training wheels that are widely used to assist the team to achieve their goals, but the user stories (scrum team managers) are what we really shoot for.

The main goal of end-to-end high-quality frequent delivery should be at the top of the leadership focus, and they are the ones who lead the entire organization towards great Agile culture.

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