Agile Managers, a Blind Spot?

When deploying lean and agility a lot of recommendation exist on how to take care of your collaborators during this change process.
In the literature, agile experts insist a lot on the necessity to pay attention in giving the right level of empowerment to teams and individuals. Teams are encouraged to self-organize, to take things in hand and work actively on improving their deliverable and their process.
Moreover, management is asked to provide a safe environment that foster experimentation and give the team the right to learn from its failures.
The manager role is banished in all agile frameworks, and rather replaced by team supporting roles, such as Scrum Master and Product Owner in the SCRUM framework. These new roles are rather focused on helping the team reach its goals in a servant-leader manner.
All this looks great, self-organization, empowerment, decentralized decision making … teamwork sounds great in an agile world, but unfortunately there’s a caveat.

Often lean and agile frameworks are deployed and applied to the corporate process delivering values while the organization remain the same. For the company board, managers are still part of the organizational chart and are still accountable on achieving the business goals. The same managers to which agile experts are saying to let go, give the teams autonomy and a safe environment. But what about these managers, who is giving them the safe environment to let go? How a manager can feel safe while he’s accountable on the performance of his teams while feeling not in control anymore? Well the obvious answer is, in the same way he should provide a safe environment for his collaborators, his superiors should equally provide him with one to operate within, self-organize and learn.
From this, it’s clear that, when it comes to deploying agility, the whole chain of command should apply the same principles. Traditional command and control management is incompatible with the mission command style of agile teams, thus breaking the agile chain will only lead to failure.
Deploying agility in enterprise can’t be done only for business processes it should be holistic and include the organizational processes too. Even more in case of phased deployment, enterprise should rather start by deploying agility to the organizational processes to shift the mindsets and interactions, doing this will facilitate the deployment of agility for business processes and increase the chances of success.
Unfortunately, most of the enterprises, if not all, start deploying agility to business processes. The choice is usually driven by the gains perceived in improving the business processes, while ignoring the strong dependency on the organizational processes. The irony is that the agile product management practices should have helped to get the correct sequencing, and the enterprise most probably used transnational management practices to plan and deploy agility! Food for thought …

photo credits:
…and pretty agile (license)