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 part of the project work. Or, manage any part of the project work.
What does this mean? It means that the team members are leaders. Agile pushes responsibility into the teams, and away from traditional management. Agile requires leadership at all levels.
Agile challenges managers to recreate their jobs. An agile transformation requires managers work in an agile way, and work differently than before.
If you want to learn more about the role of leaders and managers in agile, join Gil Broza and me at The Influential Agile Leader.