Leading any team is a great responsibility. You are not only guiding your troops into battle against time and outside issues, but also are responsible for the outcome. There is no wonder, that many books have been written about leadership and how to master it’s skills. But do the same methods fit all the different environments and practices. I would doubt that and thus want to talk about what it takes to become a great leader when working within the Agile environment.
Agile challenges traditional project management approaches thus the leadership required here is quite different as well. You have to be flexible, ready to go with the punches and enable your team to succeed. So how do you accomplish all of that? I would suggest these 5 steps to get started.
Be prepared to sell your team on the new ways
One of the first things you will have to do as an Agile leader is sell your team on the new practice. More likely than not, you will be one of the first Agile leaders they have and their opinion on Agile effectiveness may not be the greatest. People are usually reluctant to change and Agile is no different.
So to start off you have to be ready to sell and prove why the new way of doing things is actually good for them. So get to know the ins and outs and make sure to understand why Agile is the way. It will be helpful too if you are an enthusiast of the practice yourself.
Once your team is ready, now you have to be too. Most of the Agile methods practice self-controlling teams, meaning you are only there to help, not supervise. This may be a tough one to grasp, especially coming from a traditional project management standpoint, but it is something you will have to do.
So get to know the way your team operates and be ready to advise them on how to be effective. Leaving behind the task assignments and progress reports that used to give you comfort. Trust in your team and get pleasantly surprised on how the new responsibilities shape them into a more effective and accountable unit.
Be open minded
Just like with the self-organizing teams, you will have to keep your mind open when practicing Agile. There will be twist, turns and changes in your way. But as long as you do not become attached to doing things a certain way, you will be just fine.
Agile as a practice is a constantly evolving mechanism. Thus even though you choose one method to apply with your team, it doesn’t mean it will be the same after a couple of months. You as a leader should always be looking on how to optimize and de-clutter the process. And these changes may come in many different forms and from many different directions.
Another thing you may not like, but will have to deal with is failure. Instead of trying to avoid it, Agile embraces it as an opportunity to learn and improve. Remember the moto – Fail fast and iterate.
Thus being an Agile leader you have to understand the the value of failure and embrace it as an opportunity to learn. It will be your responsibility to convey this to the team and to find the lessons behind. Or in other words – to make lemonade out of lemons. Better get practicing!
Enjoy the process
Lastly, Agile is sure to be a bumpy ride for both you and your team. But that sure doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. In fact, you should.
Keep your mind on the positives and solve the negatives as a team. You will soon see your process evolve and grow beyond any initial expectations.
If you wish to learn more about the struggles in agile environment and their solutions from actual experts, you can read Challenges with Agile.