What is Agile Leadership and why is it important?

What is Agile Leadership and why is it important?

The organization can make the decision to embrace agile and select an agile framework such as scrum to get going, but the deeper considerations that need to be taking into account are whether the environment is conducive to agility and agile behaviours.

If you have a small pocket of agility, such as a small 9-person scrum team, they can only succeed to X degree because there are so many organizational impediments and roadblocks that exceed the influence and control of the team.

They simply don’t have the authority or firepower necessary to overcome the roadblocks.

Agile Leadership

Traditional management is built on the idea of supervision and ensuring that people are doing the tasks they were assigned to do, in the way they were told to complete the task, and within the predetermined time frames allocated to the task.

Managers ask questions like:

  • When will the task be completed?
  • When will you solve the problem?
  • How long will it take to create the solution?
  • How much will it cost to build the solution?
  • We are a week past our deadline, why isn’t this problem solved yet?

In a simple space, such as moving bricks from point A to point Z, those questions are fine. We know what needs to be done, we know the best way to move bricks, and if we simply follow a formula then we have a 100% certainty that the problem will be solved or the task will be done.

In a complex space, such as software engineering, we don’t know what we don’t know.

The problem has never been solved before or the solution has never been built before, so there is no formula and there is no guarantee of success.

Traditional management and project management falls over in complex environments because they require certainty and stability to work. In the face of complexity, you need to follow empirical process control to discover and develop the best way forward, and you need to keep validating that your hypothesis is correct at each step of the product development process.

  • Are we building the most valuable product or solution?
  • Are we solving the most compelling problem for our customer?
  • What feedback have we received from our customer reviewing the product or solution?
  • Are we getting frequent and actionable feedback from customers and stakeholders?

So, Agile Leadership is about creating an environment where your product development teams can succeed. As the leader, you aren’t the expert, so you can’t tell people how to do their job or what to do to achieve the outcome.

They are the experts, and they are the people who are best positioned to make decisions about how to achieve the objective and what needs doing to take them one step closer to discovering a solution. Your job, as an agile leader, is to recognize that and help solve problems or remove impediments that are beyond the control and influence of the team.

An agile leader will:

  • Ask different questions from the team than a traditional manager.
  • Behave differently. The scrum values and agile principles are great guidelines of what you would embrace as opposed to the traditional shouting, shaming, blaming, and micromanagement of traditional organizations.
  • You would actively attempt to solve the problems that your team bring to your attention.
  • You would be creating an environment of psychological safety. A place where people can contribute their thoughts, ideas, and recommendations without fear of being reprimanded, humiliated, or fired.
  • You would be creating an environment where it is safe to fail. A place where hypothesis-driven product development can thrive, and the team are safe to learn from experiments and evolve based on data and evidence.

Most importantly, you would look to truly empower the team.

Instead of endless rounds of committee approvals, you provide the team with a framework within which they can make decisions about the things that they are best positioned to make decisions on.

They are the experts.

We don’t need to ask a manager with zero technical knowledge or engineering experience to make a decision on an engineering problem or technical roadblock. They can’t help because they don’t know the best way forward. The experts do.

So, you would look to create guardrails that prevented the team from overstepping their authority and decision-making parameters, but also enough latitude and authority to becoming autonomous and self-managing.

In a nutshell, agile leadership is about cultivating an environment where agility can thrive, and people can grow their agile capabilities in a humane, respectful way.

About John Coleman

John Coleman has deep experience and expertise working with executives, #leadership teams and product development teams to achieve increased #organizationalagility and create environments where creativity and collaboration produce high-performance teams.

https://linktr.ee/johncolemanxagility – social and podcast links

https://linkpop.com/orderlydisruption – order training from right here

If you are interested in helping your team or organization achieve greater agility and want to explore agile training options, visit our training page.

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If you are looking for an agile consultant that can help your leadership team identify an appropriate roadmap to organizational agility and take the most effective course of action in your agile transformation, visit our consulting page.

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Agile Leadership
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