Four Tips for Managing Performance in Agile Teams

I’ve been talking with clients recently about their managers’ and HR’s transition to agile. I hear this common question: “How do we manage performance of the people on our agile teams?” Reframe “manage performance” to “career development.” People on agile teams don’t need a manager to manage their performance. If they are retrospecting at reasonable intervals, they will inspect-and-adapt to work better together. Well, they will if managers don’t interfere with their work by creating experts or moving people off project teams. The manager creates a trusting relationship with each person on the team. That means having a one-on-one weekly or bi-weekly with each person. At the one-on-one, the manager provides tips for feedback and offers coaching.  (If the person needs it or wants it from the manager.) The person might want to know where else he or she can receive coaching. The manager removes obstacles if the person has them. They discuss career development. When managers discuss career development, each person needs to see an accurate view of the value they bring to the organization. That means each person has to know how to give and receive feedback. They each have to know how to ask for and accept coaching. The manager provides meta-feedback and meta-coaching. If you, as a manager, meet with each person at least once every two weeks, no problem is a problem for too long. The people in the team have another person to discuss issues with. The manager sees the system and can change it to help the people on the team. Now, what does this mean for raises? I like to separate the...

What Development & Test Managers do in Agile Organizations

Is there room for functional managers, such as development and test managers, in agile organizations? Maybe. It depends on whether they take the role of an agile manager. If you have organized as a feature teams-based organization, the functional managers (development, test, analysis, whatever) can take these responsibilities: Develop trusting relationships with the people on the project team, and in their function. Provide coaching and mentoring opportunities for people. Provide communities of practice for the people. Remove obstacles for the people and team. Start and nurture the hiring effort whenever you need to hire new people. Help people with career development. Provide feedback to people, and help people learn how to provide feedback (meta-feedback). Provide coaching and meta-coaching when people want it. Help the organization understand its capacity and make decisions about the project portfolio. Help influence the rest of the organization with the agile culture. Functional managers are champions for the team, and shepherds for the process. They are servant leaders. Here’s what functional managers do not do: Have status conversations. If the team is agile, the team understands its status. If you need help seeing their board, that’s a problem the team needs to solve. If they need help seeing their status, they need to change their board or their process for updating each other. Move people on or off teams, once you or the team establishes itself. Ask people to do something the team has not committed to, or that the product owner has not added to the kanban board. That’s right. “Your” team doesn’t work for you; the team works for the product owner. Micromanage any...

Change the Indispensable Employee Mindset

Years ago, I was the expert for two specific products in a small development organization. When it came time for my manager to divide up the work, I always got those products to add features to, or maintain. That was fine for a while, until I got bored. I went to my boss with a request for different work. “Who will do the work if you don’t?” My boss was concerned. “Steve or Dave will. They’re good. They can take over for me.” I knew my colleagues. They could do the work. “But, they’ll have to learn what you do.” “I know. I can take a few days to explain, if you want. I don’t think it will take a few days to explain. They’re smart. I’m still available if they have questions.” “I don’t know. You’re indispensable where you are.” I faced my boss and stood up. “No one is indispensable. And, if I am, you should replace me on those systems anyway. What are you going to do if I leave?” My boss paled, and asked, “Are you planning to leave?” “I don’t know. I’m bored. I want new work. I told you that. I don’t see why I can’t have new work. You need developers on these projects.” I named three of them. “Why do I have to stay doing work on the old stuff when I want to do new things. I don’t see why I should. Just because I’ve been doing it for a year is no reason to pigeon-hole me. No. I want new work. I’m not indispensable. You can hire someone and I can train that...

Two Career Tools for a Job Search

Is it time for you to look for a new job? Or, thinking about looking for a new job? If so, you want to know about two tools: understanding your career anchors and mining your career timeline. I just read about Edgar Schein’s Career Anchors. The 8 anchors are: Technical/Functional General Managerial Autonomy/Independence Security/Stability Entrepreneurial Creativity Service to a Cause Pure Challenge Lifestyle The idea is that you decide which anchors best reflect your personality. Then, you review your current job. You see how well your current job matches what you want. Now you can decide what to do. If you are stuck in jobs that don’t fit for you, and you have not tried the career timeline activity, which includes looking at your values and culture in Manage Your Job Search, do that. You need a job (and a career) that fits your values. You might look at the career anchors, too. Maybe you’ve been in the wrong roles all...

Three Tips for Answering “Tell Me About Yourself”

I’ve said I don’t like the “Tell me About Yourself” question long ago and more recently. It’s not a useful question. But that’s not going to stop interviewers from asking it. Here are my three tips for answer this question. Remember that you are not your degrees or certifications. Remember that you are not your role (project manager, developer, tester, whatever). Remember that you need to articulate your value. If you remember those three ideas, how do you answer this question? Here are some examples. Example #1: Let’s assume you are a project manager, with a slew of certificates and an MBA. You don’t say, “I have an MBA and a PMP.” No, you say, “I ran a geographically distributed agile program. We succeeded because I helped people learn how to see their interdependencies. I helped the teams learn to collaborate. I never worked so hard in my life, not driving to a date. I didn’t learn any of this in school or in my certifications. I learned it on the job, experimenting, using the data to see what did and didn’t work. I know what works on an agile program with teams and people all over the world. Some of it isn’t pretty. But, with experimentation, we can make it work.” Example #2: Let’s assume you are a tester. (Some people call this QA Engineer.) You don’t say, “I’m a QA Engineer” or “I’m a tester.” Nobody cares if you have certifications.  You say, “I provide information about the product under development, regardless of where in development that product is. I can read specs. I can argue architecture....