Agile coaches complaining about management’s unwilling attitude to listen to the beauties of Agile is ever-present. I have not had this problem. And I can teach you how not to have it either.

Getting management to understand Agile requires:

  1. The first step is to respect management and be open to dialog. The Agile space has long ignored or held management in contempt. Not only is this unfair, but it’s also counterproductive. Like all roles, there are good and bad managers. The fact that they don’t understand things does not make them evil. It just puts the burden on you to explain things.
  2. Understand the business perspective. Speak to management from management’s business perspective. Know the strategies and customers that are being implemented.
  3. Speak from their point of view. Please don’t say we have to work on fewer things; tell them we want to deliver value faster and with less wasted effort.
  4. Don’t expect them to buy into Agile. Agile means different things to different people. Reading the Agile Manifesto to them will seem pedantic.
  5. Never say, “then we wouldn’t be doing scrum.” They don’t care. And if they are the ones that told you to do Scrum, they may feel you are making them wrong. And if they are, then it’s even worse for you.
  6. If you see that Lean would work better, do Lean. Call it Scrum if need be.
  7. Let management understand what’s happening.
  8. Never believe people are coming with ill intentions if it may be due to a lack of understanding.
  9. Don’t assume management is trying to keep a command and control attitude. As Eli Goldratt observed, “A comfort zone has less to do with control and more to do with knowledge.”
  10. Be able and prepared to explain why Agile works. Don’t merely assume it does because the Scrum guide claims it does.
  11. Understand the basic premises of Lean so you can explain why it works
  12. Understand essential value stream management, so you know to explain how local optimizations don’t often lead to global improvements.

Many Agilists blame managers for not fully participating in an Agile adoption – or even resisting it. But consider the impact of consultants ignoring them, not respecting them, talking down to them, calling them chickens, and barring them from important meetings.  All in the name of Agile/Scrum. If you were in their place, what would your opinion be of it? Acknowledge that and do something different.

 Some thoughts from Eli Goldratt from The Choice (with comments)

“The difficulty is that if I’m not sure, really sure that a 2nd effect does exist, I might stay inside the box; it is always safer to stay within the comfortable boundaries of a box than to jump out into the unknown. Since the other effect is not within that box, I will not find it. I’ll give up searching and remain stuck with a tautology (circular logic).”

“A comfort zone has less to do with control and more to do with knowledge”

Comment by author: Many blame managers for being in a command and control mode. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy when you claim this and don’t provide managers with basic insights that would enable them to give up control.

“… it is obvious that we should expect resistance when the person is seeing a different cause-and-effect relationship than we are employing. How much resistance? Well, it depends on what led our clients to believe in their existing cause-and-effect connection. I now believe that we had better distinguish between two different types of situations—one where people have experience and the other where people do not.”

Comment by Author: When the people who are pushed outside their comfort zone don’t have the experience to judge whether or not the causes and effects underlying our suggestion have merit—causes and effects that are in direct contradiction to the one they assumed—is an explanation enough to cause them to invest the considerable time and efforts needed to launch, monitor and analyze a test?

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