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What does Agile Leaders do – Part 1

In 2008 I was employed as a Project Manager at e-conomic. Within the first year we change the  IT-development organisation to be become more agile (the classic approach, also named as Agile adaptation). This change lead to removal of many of the Project Manager task and responsibilities.

Don’t be afraid. There was a lot of work to be done. Within the next year I started to understand what Agile Project manager responsibilities which is to assist the agile adaptation and transformation.

IT development project is the sum of at least 3 different types of projects:
  1. Develop the IT product
  2. Change the Business
  3. and the ever lasting Political project (never ending)

These 3 project has to be attended differently. An agile project leader knows how to facilitate these 3 different project and make the best out of it in a agile content. So If you have completed a Agile transformation this is easy, but the most companies agile maturity is variate a lot. This is within these 3 project areas that Agile Leader works, not within but around facilitating – helping people, teams, departments to become Agile.

Agile Project Leader (APL)
I don’t like the word Manager, I rather use the word “Leader”. Management or manager is focused on controlling, measuring, being the one knowing better than the once being manged. Making or taking the decisions.

This is NOT the way I saw my job anymore. Working with together with colleagues I have realized that I’m not the smartest (I knew that :-) or the one with the great ideas, so using the competences of all my colleagues is a must for us to succeed. Fail and learn. So my job is to lead instead of commanding and controlling – but what does that mean?

Leaders are like gardener they can only plant seeds, water, remove weeds, secure condition and environment for the plants to grow. The plants grow them self within the right environment. When time is ready the gardeners organize harvesting of the plants fruits and then the life cycle is complete.

Agile processes value (life cycle) is getting work done over having items in progress. The question for an Agile Leader becomes, “How can I array people, team, organisation to best increase throughput?” rather than, “How can I maximize ‘my’ people being utilized at 100 percent?”

As an Agile leader at e-conomic I learned to focused on coaching the team, department and the organization as the change evolved. My activities as an Agile leader was set into 3 main categories (the activities is not a definite list):

Adoption to agile practices
- Training in Agile methodologies like scrum, lean, product vision, user stories, continuously improvement, fail and learn, setting the ground rules of our agile adoption which is to be change as we got more agile mature and challenged the basic settings.  
- Facilitation of meetings (all kinds)
- Agile training of any one how whats to be trained
- Focusing on delivering higher quality by getting more knowledge of test 
- Promoting quality and craftsmanship by enhancing focus on training, blogging, conferences, peer programming,  regular knowledge sharing sessions, promoting self mini-projects, code cata, bug hunt games, and test automation. 


Culture change sets of transformation

- Promoting agile mindset
- Getting people motivated and evolved
- Understanding my peers and have empathy 
- Facilitating the hiring process of new competent colleagues
- Delegation of responsibility like Product vision document, Business Solution description,  
- Staff development appraisal (I was not ready to make team appraisal) 
- Building up trust
- Coach self development and change if needed
Organisational change is the result of the transformation
- Involve the hole organisation in development projects
- Conduct process improvement activities
- While teams were self-organized there is a need for facilitation of inter-team coordination
- Once tried to let people self-organize into teams, but it didn’t succeed so I had to “manage resource planning” to match the business priorities.
- Setting up an agile alternative for handling portfolio management with the acceptance from the top management
- Trying to removing unnecessary political boundaries 
- And then all the administrative stuff like granting money for tools and licenses, time registering, providing company information, reporting back to top management, handling of partners. 

Sources:

I’ve read some great blogs and articles on the topic of Agile Leadership and like top share these quotes and leanings. 

Applying Agile means changing how teams work and how projects are planned. Those changes often challenge underlying beliefs and practices around leading knowledge workers, teams and programs as well. From Rally Software http://www.rallydev.com/sites/default/files/Agile%20Manager.pdf.
Agile project management is an iterative approach to planning and guiding project processes. From the blog post by Margaret Rouse “Agile Project Management”
From Johanna Jothman blogpost  “Why a  Agile Project Manager is not a scrum master”. http://www.jrothman.com/blog/mpd/2012/02/why-an-agile-project-manager-is-not-a-scrum-master.html

- It’s worth knowing that, or at least retrospecting about the data. A Project Manager will gather the data. take on the risk management responsibility without asking the team.
- A Project Manager has responsibility to the team and to the organization

- I expect the Agile Project Manager to collaborate on the feature roadmap and the backlog with the product owner.

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