For about a year and a half I have been an Agile Coach. Before that I was essentially the Agile Coach for a subset of the organization, and a Scrum Master before that. And before I was a Scrum Master, I was a Java developer. I've never worn a "manager" hat before.
Just prior to #Agile2015, I found myself moving my family over a thousand miles away from our home of 7 years to take a position as a Sr. Tech Manager. Anyone who knows me knows that being an Agile Coach was perfect for me because that's just what I do naturally, so those behaviors - that mindset - are not going away. So how does one be both an Agile Coach and a manager?
I guess we'll find out!
I took advantage of the largest annual Agile conference to explore the space and get some advice from people who are far more expert than myself. I attended some fantastic sessions, including:
- "Mentoring vs Coaching: Show Me the Difference" by Lyssa Adkins
- "A Systems Approach to Modern Leadership" by Matt Barcomb
- "Build Strong Teams through Trust & Alignment" by David Hawks and Doc List
- "Road to No Management" by Pawel Brodzinski (my colleagues found my attending this session particularly humorous)
- "Swarming: The Birds, the Bees, and Agile -or- How Managers Influence Self-Organization" by Dhaval Panchal (and, apparently, Thomas Perry, though Dhaval did pretty much all the presenting)
- "Amplify Learning in Your Organization" by, again, Matt Barcomb
- "Benefiting from Conflict - Building Antifragile Relationships and Teams" by Jake Calabrese
I attended several other sessions, but these in particular stood out to me. I think Lyssa's was recorded, and I certainly recommend watching it once it is posted online.
I'm still trying to wrap my head around everything that I learned, but here are some common themes that I've managed to identify so far:
- A good manager and a good Agile Coach should look an awful lot alike
- Control is an illusion; trust and collaboration get results
- My number one job as a manager is to work on the environment that my people work in - given the right environment, the people will thrive and value will get delivered
- Decentralizing control (decisions) is faster and tends to drive better results...
- ... as long as you also decentralize the information necessary to make the best decisions
- It is not enough for a person or team to be robust/resilient - we must set our sights on antifragility
- There is no silver bullet - managers, too, must be committed to continuous improvement
I will be conducting experiments based on what I've learned and sharing the results - as much as I'm able - as they come to fruition. I am under no delusion that all (or any) of my experiments will be eagerly accepted or wildly successful, but I am certain that I will learn from each of them and come out a better manager and coach.
So tell me, what advice do you have for me as I start this journey? Or, if you also attended #Agile2015, what learnings would you like to share? I'm eager to learn as much as I can from as many of you as I can!
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