Agile leadership is the art of creating the right environment and context for the self-managing teams. It’s the responsibility of the agile leader to continuously improve the environment of the agile teams. Environments where teams collaborate, learn from each other, get quick feedback from users and are focused on quality and continuous learning. He or she doesn’t micro-manage the people nor creates total freedom. Balancing between anarchy and strict structure is crucial in today’s markets. Developing and maintaining this right environment is often hard work. Not focusing on the day-to-day details, individual results or work progress. But focus on culture, mindset, ownership, feedback and long term goals.
We also examined some of the fundamental principles of agility:
- Transparency – When we graduated from college we worked for a small startup. One day they called us into the conference room to let us know the company was in dire financial trouble. At this point we were so far into the red that people had to be affected. The owners of the company felt like they were protecting us from this knowledge. Because we didn’t know the company’s financial situation, we couldn’t do anything to help them. Agile leaders work hard to be open and honest with their communication. They make sure that all needed information is out in the open and easily accessible.
- Continual feedback – Agile leaders abhor practices like the annual performance analysis. Instead of bottling up feedback and delivering it all in one fell swoop. Agile leaders provide feedback in the moment where it can add the most value.
- Inspect and adapt – Agile leaders use retrospectives to frequently pause and examine the output of the team and the way that the team works together. These retrospectives allow for everyone to get better at a more expedient pace.
- Embrace failure – By running short low risk experiments and “failing” we learn quickly. An agile leader sees failure as an opportunity for their teams to grow, not something that should be prevented at all costs.
The following are the 12 principles of the Agile Leadership:
- Agile Leaders Know the Agile Manifesto
Those leading agile teams should know the ultimate foundation of the agile approach, namely the Agile Manifesto, which was written about 15 years ago by agile gurus like Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland and is still as up-to-date as ever. Of course, the principles of agile work formulated back then have developed further, but at its key, the Agile Manifesto is still relevant and therefore is fundamental to every agile leader.
- Agile Leaders foster Constant Learning
Speaking of feedback, that takes us to our next step. The basic principle of agile work is to show at every step on how a team can achieve its goals even more efficiently and fastly. Also in sprint review meetings or through retrospectives, agile teams share various lessons they have understood at frequent intervals. Throughout this, agile leaders function as a impetus by practicing continuous learning on the basis of new insights and mistakes. This is a regular part of their daily work, and they even start by looking at themselves.
- Agile Leaders Are Masters of Action
While the Agile Manifesto is initially something to be read and internalized, in practice it revolves a lot more around doing. Agile is all about taking action and therefore actions speaking louder than words. Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see” and in fact, managers should be careful to create an even balance between the goals they set and the subsequent actions that follow. Agile always means change, and modern leaders should not only teach this, but also begin to create the conditions for successful change. This includes a self-critical examination of their performance and being open to feedback from their own group.
- The End User Counts: Agile Leaders Focus on Real Success
We live in times in which companies in all industries and of all sizes are undergoing transformational processes, and the tendency to become too self-centered is increasing. The arguments of transformation activist know no bounds: What has been achieved should be preserved, change has its limits and day-to-day business must not be endangered. Agile leaders are not impressed by these arguments and instead focus on what really counts, namely developing a minimum viable product (MVP) that is honed step by step. Success is not measured according to the HiPPO principle (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion), but instead on the basis of end users’ feedback and their assessment of the result.
- Agile Leaders eliminate Roadblocks for the Team
Agile leaders have internalized that the expected results are gained when their team has the maximum possible freedom of action, and when reaching the overarching goal is prioritized over the personal sensitivities of some. To this end, managers should not only be able to motivate employees but also to empower and encourage them to work independently and do not let critics distract them from reaching their end goals. Though, this is not performed in a monthly status meeting or a review period annually. Empowerment and motivation want to be given afresh every day such that in Scrum, every sprint ends up with a detailed review.
If you know and work based on these principles and values you will be developing the full potential of Agility.