Agile 2007 Sessions – Diana Larsen’s “Stimulating Success Agile Managers as Facilitators”

Monday, September 24, 2007 – 3:38 PM

This session grabbed my attention as this was just one of many challenges the VSTO product unit faced when moving to a more agile process as part of the migration to a new Feature Crew process in Visual Studio. More entertainingly when we started this move, of which I was a strong proponent, I was an individual contributor. By the time we had our agile process I was a Dev Lead and wondering exactly what I was supposed to be doing. Even if you know what you’re supposed to be doing actually figuring our how do do it, potentially unlearning years of practices and behaviors that worked just fine in your old top-down management world can be challenging.

Many of the things managers used to do aren’t appropriate in an agile organization; planning and directing being two good examples. But there is lot’s left to do including much of the coaching and facilitating role. Mediating conflicts and watching for things outside the team that might impact them and ensuring that boundaries between teams are well defined and managed correctly.

Managers should be really focused on the following:

  • Facilitate Effective Meetings

  • Navigate Team Boundaries

  • Attend to Team Membership

  • Stay Alert to Risks

  • Champion the Team

Diana went into each one of these area’s in some depth (see link to slides below). Interestingly this is what many of the leads within the VSTO organization ended up doing but had to find it by trial and error. The content of Diana’s talk would have been really helpful as we started the journey.

Something else that I picked up during my time managing the Feature Crews on Orcas… As a manager try and be a pig not a chicken. Try pick up some of the team’s work, however small, and complete it for them. I managed to find time to fix their FxCop warnings and get them passing on the continuous integration server. This was maybe a day’s work at most but the feedback from it was very positive. I think it sends a message that you are no longer managing the team (directing from one high) but are actually part of it.