Shockingly, the question “what’s the point of managers in an agile organization?” remains unanswered.

Managers have been sidelined by the Agile movement, being told to “remove blockers and bring coffee, but otherwise stay out of the way of the delivery team”.

Their bosses (who sponsor and desire transformation) expect those managers to “make Agile happen” but haven’t updated their job descriptions, so management still operates in a traditional way.

Yet middle management is critical to agility and necessary in all large organizations, even digital-natives such as Google, Amazon and PayPal.

Following years of practical coaching and extensive research, Russ Lewis reveals the three strategic actions managers must take to deliver Business Agility and why they are more important than anything else for every organization in transition to agility.


Outline/Structure of the Keynote

Context (3 mins)

  • Application in (very large, very dysfunctional) organizations
  • Research platform (from Deming to Google)
  • Part of the wider Predictable Agile Delivery framework (see other session)

Role of the manager (15 mins)

  • The three strategic actions
  • Narrative (see learning outcomes) and examples of each

Conclusion (2 mins)

  • Comparison with other frameworks
  • Take-away nugget

Learning Outcome

Managers have a critical role in the organization to improve and accelerate the ways their teams solve problems and deliver value. They do this this by focusing on three strategic actions:

  • Lead collaboration
  • Ensure prioritization
  • Develop competence

The seniority of managers gives them a wider and higher perspective of the business than most team members. By leading collaboration with key stakeholders, with other teams and other dependency-owners, they surface risks and requirements to the team. Collaborating within the team, facilitating a retrospective or working alongside team members to fix a production incident, managers model agile practices and provide visible leadership.

Line managers and VPs are responsible for the ROI of their teams, which means they must engage with product managers and business stakeholders to ensure prioritization of the business-value delivery backlog of work. They are also responsible for their team’s cooperation with other teams where they are dependency-owners, as well as operational maintenance and improvement of the team – its purpose and direction.

Agility depends on individual and team competencies, and Business Agility depends on organizational learning. Teams whose managers ensure they understand their value-process and regularly improve it, reach predictable and stable levels of high performance very quickly. This feeds back positively into collaboration and self-organisation with team members empowering themselves to identify and gain the skills they need. Concurrently, managers should develop their own competence as professional managers, leading by example and defining outcome-driven, safe-to-fail hypotheses and experiments in which they are the subject.

Target Audience

executives, managers, presidents, VPs, chairpersons, c-suite, change agents

Prerequisites for Attendees

Bring an open mind

schedule Submitted 3 years ago