Agile Team Leaders need “Sense-and-Respond” Leadership [#Agile #AgileTeam #AgileTeamLeaders]

AGILE TEAM LEADERS NEED “SENSE-AND-RESPOND” LEADERSHIP [#Agile #AgileTeam #AgileTeamLeaders]

Conventional Project Managers Responsibilities:
1. Timeline & Resource Planning:
2. Assembling the Team:
3. Motivating the Team:
4. Managing Costs & Managing Timeline:
5. Identifying, Managing & Mitigating Risks:
6. Monitoring Progress & Communicating the Team’s Status:

Agile Team Leader Responsibilities:
1. Timeline & Resource Planning:
2. Assembling the Team:
3. Motivating the Team:
4. Managing Costs & Managing Timeline:
5. Identifying, Managing & Mitigating Risks:
6. Monitoring Progress & Communicating the Team’s Status:

7. Agile Advocate & Change Agent:
8. Agile Educator:
9. Data Analyst:
10. Facilitator:
11. Emotional Supporter:

Agile team leaders need a “Sense-and-Respond” leadership where the reliability of leaders “comes from our ability to quickly sense what is happening—in all of its unpredictability, in all of its complexity, in all of its ambiguity—and to respond in ways that leave us and others more congruently aligned with our vision in and for the world.”

CONVENTIONAL PROJECT MANAGERS RESPONSIBILITIES:

Traditionally Project Managers responsibilities include:

1. Timeline & Resource Planning:
Setting deadlines and milestones, as well as securing the right people and SMEs, technical and financial resources, facilities, and other needed resources at the right time.

2. Assembling the Team:
Selecting team members with the right skills, availability, and motivation to get the job done.

3. Motivating the Team:
Guiding the team, celebrating successes, and aligning individual goals with project team goals.

4. Managing Costs & Managing Timeline:
Setting a budget and tracking activity against it, and making adjustments to ensure that the project comes in on time and in budget.

5. Identifying, Managing & Mitigating Risks:
Preparing for possible hiccups to the project plan, managing them when they come, and mitigating the downside risk to the project.

6. Monitoring Progress & Communicating the Team’s Status:
Regularly sending status reports and serving as the representative of the team in other meetings.

Agile Team Leader Responsibilities:

Agile team leader has all of the above responsibilities, plus additional unique responsibilities:

1. Agile Advocate & Change Agent:
While many organizations are still in transition to an Agile approach, particularly in learning and development, Agile Project Leaders will often find themselves seeking buy-in for this new way of working. Project sponsors, stakeholders, and SMEs—as well as managers of other projects that may need the same resources—may need some convincing.

Take an Agile approach to implementing Agile:
Start with one project that has a willing team and a willing sponsor. You will learn a lot as you and the team learn how to work with Agile techniques and very different mindset. These lessons can be applied to future projects with less-eager sponsors or teams, having made most of your major stumbles with people predisposed to cut you some slack. This means that you will be navigating change on the organizational level at the same time that you are managing a project that is expecting constant change.

2. Agile Educator:
Some teams may leverage the support of a formal Agile coach (Executive coach but focused on Agile techniques and supporting the whole team), but in most cases the Team Leader will serve as the primary educator about Agile.

In this role, the Team Leader will make sure that the team has the skills and knowledge to use Agile techniques and will educate the project sponsor, stakeholders, and SMEs about how to work with the team in this new way.

3. Data Analyst:
Since the team will regularly get feedback from learners as they use the training, it is likely that the team will be using more data than usual. The Project Lead is in an excellent position to take point on this analysis for smaller projects or work with a team member for this.

4. Facilitator:
The emphasis of Agile on frequent and face-to-face or at least synchronous communication means that the Project Manager is often facilitating working sessions with a variety of people. The project kickoff session is where the team works with the project sponsor, stakeholders, SMEs, and representatives of the learner population to define scope for the project. This requires excellent facilitation skills to ensure all voices are heard and understood and that the group arrives at the best decisions possible.

In many cases, the Project Mnager is facilitating participants in the session who are of a higher rank; the political nature of this in some organizations cannot be understated.

During weekly project planning meetings, the Agile Project Manager engenders the most transparent communications around tasks, estimating, and capabilities to get the work done. Project Managers are often also the ones who facilitate Agile retrospectives, or “lessons learned” sessions.

5. Emotional Supporter:
Agile techniques are designed to help a project adapt to constant feedback and change, but human beings are not necessarily wired like this. When the inevitable change comes, it might be to something that the team has worked long and hard on, or that the team was doing exactly as asked … and then the ask changed. Or, in the flow of routine iteration testing, the team might find out that the work they are doing does not actually help learners as intended.

The emotional response of the team may range from jaded to devastated. As much as you outwardly respond to change with enthusiasm, as a leader, you need to be sensitive to the emotional reaction of the team to the change.

These additional responsibilities of the Agile Project Leader fall squarely in the realm of “soft skills” or “core professional skills.”

They are every bit as important as the tools, techniques, and mindset of Agile in supporting teams to be successful. As with many core professional skills, you can improve your proficiency through formal training, coaching, and reflective experience.

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