I’ve often held the perspective that there is no real ‘L’eadership roles within agile teams. The entire notion of a self-directed team in some ways confuses the role that leadership plays within agile contexts.
One of the leadership dynamics, at least from my perspective, is at the agile or Scrum team level. I’ve always observed that leadership is one of the central ingredients to a successful agile adoption. In fact, the larger the scale, the more important it becomes.
That being said, the larger the scale, the more incumbent managers and leaders struggle to figure out the new role they need to play in the shift. And quite often the organization really doesn’t support them (coaching, training, funding) in this effort. It’s sort of left as an exercise for the student; which mostly fails.
Now that I think about it, a “rule” sounds a whole lot more formal than I intend it. Perhaps I should call it a guideline or a heuristic or a thinking tool?
Ah, I don’t know. Let’s get into it and make that determination afterwards.
It’s simple really. It revolves around telling your teams what to do. That is providing your directives, strong opinions, and guidance when you’re interacting with your fledgling agile teams.
The premise is that for every 100 opportunities that you are confronted with in your organization to provide prescriptive advice to your teams, you get no more than 5 times to actually tell your teams what to do.
One of the core ideas or principles of agile teams is this notion of a self-directed, self-managed, and self-organized team.
In my experience, it’s one of the hardest things to “get right” in your coaching and team evolution efforts.
Often I see two extremes…either:
the teams use the self-organization, self-directed mantra as a means of having no accountability. It’s essentially the “inmates running the asylum” and they can choose to do whatever they wish, whenever they wish under the banner of – “don’t bother us…we’re being agile”.
Or the other extreme is that:
the management team says that they’re empowering their self-directed teams, but when you look at their behavior, they’re doing what they’ve always done…tell folks what to do.