When I say Agile Leaders, I may be opening up a room for doubt regarding how leadership can vary depending on the project management model. Research studies conducted by Rodney Turner and Ralf Müller in 2005 prove that different leadership styles would be appropriate for different types of project management.
If a type of project management can influence the success of a project, there is no doubt that a specific leadership style will also influence it.
Lots of modern day software organizations have abandoned the traditional waterfall project management method in favour of the Agile project management approach. If you are in a leadership role as a Scrum Master (though Scrum Master is not a formally-defined leader role), who aims to get the best out of the team by evolving everyone as leaders, you need to wear the cap of an effective leader. And bear in mind that becoming an effective leader in an Agile setup is a continuous and transformational process.
Agile Leadership — Why Should It Be A Continuous Process?
Agile means the ability to move faster. Therefore, an ideal Agile organization should solve a problem faster using short development cycles called “sprints”. To enable faster movement there shouldn’t be any sort of delays or wastage. Teams should act smartly and swiftly. Leaders should facilitate this by continuously improving their roles.
As Agile is an ever-changing and uncertain environment, becoming an Agile leader is also a continuous journey thanks to the following two aspects.
a. Handle new challenges and changes on a daily basis: In an Agile environment, new challenges may pop up each day. If the team needs to handle these situations, leaders should lead the way by being quick and adaptable. They should be quick in making decisions and in implementing actions. They should develop and continuously grow the environments in which their team performs. A state of mind of continuous improvement and adaptability should be an Agile leader’s hallmark.
b. Change in mindset starts with leaders: There should be a shift in the entire corporate culture if your organization is getting ready for Agile transformation. Agile values are in stark contrast to traditional project management values. Therefore, to be a successful Agile organization, corporate values should get aligned with agile values. Agile leaders play a crucial role in facilitating these cultural changes, and hence, they need to train themselves to have an Agile mindset, which is a continuous process. Train your mind to acquire an attitude of constantly empowering your teammates.
5 Tips To Become A Successful Agile Leader
1. Facilitate self-organization: Self-Organization is one of the major attributes of an Agile team. Self-organizing teams are not a chaos scenario, wherein team members can do whatever they wish to do. An agile leader should ensure that self-organized teams are strongly aligned around the overall purpose, strategy, and priorities of the organization. Leaders should stop managing the teams. They should enable the teams to act as a collective intelligence unit, where team members can think and act autonomously. This will help them to bring up better solutions in a shorter time with no managerial intervention.
2. Be a servant leader: High-performing agility can be fuelled only if you are ready to be a servant-leader. If you are habituated to be a controlling leader, preferring to sit in a separate cubicle or corner office, you can’t be a good agile leader. You need to be a servant leader focussing constantly on your team/people. You need to lead by example and walk the talk and should serve the people regardless of the title they officially carry. Develop empathetic listening skills and be bold enough to create a safe-to-fail environment.
3. Encourage cross-functional collaboration: Cross-functional teams are the lifeblood of Agile organizations. Agile leaders should encourage and empower teams to have all the competencies to accomplish the project goal. Everyone who has an active role in a project — Developers, QA, Business Analysts, Marketing personnel, etc. — will be present in a cross-functional team. The team with different functional and domain expertise will help in reducing all forms of waste such as Delays, Defects, Partially done work, Paperwork, Task switching, Hand-offs, and Extra feature.
4. Refrain from micromanagement: Treat your team members as sensible human beings with the acumen to determine what they need for quality work. Though Agile culture allows you to review tasks and results to find improvements, personal criticism should be kept at bay. Have confidence in your team’s abilities and never over-manage the scrum meeting. An Agile leader should never get tired of encouraging and empowering their team members. Employees should never feel constantly observed as it will lessen their motivation and team spirit.
The words of ancient Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu suits well in the context of Agile leadership: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
5. Ensure that focus is always fixed on delivering great customer experience: The team’s focus on delivering great customer experience should be unwavering. Agile leaders should enable seamless collaboration and teamwork to climb the customer focus stairs effectively. The leader should ensure that all members are dedicated to the highest priority tasks that deliver value for the business. To smoothen their process to achieve this, the person in the leadership role should remove impediments on the way. This will help the team to do away with wasting time dealing with clutter.
There is no doubt that Agile leadership is a totally flexible and unique approach to lead people. If offering exceptional experiences for clients and teams is the focus of your organization, it is imperative to have an Agile organizational structure that is empowered by Agile leaders. Go ahead and train yourself to be a super-charged Agile leader to reap magnificent organizational success.