Our first three posts in this series established the foundation for leadership engagement in an agile organization: senior leaders create the long-term vision, mid-level leaders build the implementation plan and establish agile teams, and the product owners and teams deliver the vision using an agile discovery and delivery techniques.
As the product teams are building momentum through sprint delivery cycles the most beneficial activity for mid-level leaders would be to remove big impediments.
Many big impediments are the result of incomplete or poor planning during the Building Out the Vision activities mentioned in Part 2 of this series. This would include incorrect team composition, size and dedication, enterprise-level technical feasibility has not been validated, or lack of prioritization.
As a mid-level manager or leader in an agile organization, here are just a few of many possible ways to remove the big impediments keeping your team from amazing things:
Handle bad team members. As a leader and manager, the most important impediment you can remove will be relieving the team from a toxic team member. We hope this rarely happens but it does. We give everyone a chance to be a contributor and partner with the team but sometimes the connection just isn’t there. It takes just one person to derail a team so act quickly when necessary.
Destroy silos. Some of the hardest and most damaging impediments to tear down are those relating to departmental silos. Be a connector within your organization by removing process and sign-offs between groups. Think about ways your teams can co-create with others departments in your organization instead of passing around paper and email.
Solve large-scale technical issues. Like many organizations, including the ones I have been associated with, you probably have lingering technical skeletons in your closet. Your product teams and support groups have established workarounds and kept things running with duct tape and baling wire. Leveraging continuous integration and delivery will be challenging without resolving some of these technical constraints.
Shield the team. This is a tricky one to handle but there may be leaders (especially the senior type) who would like to continue to interact with product development on a daily basis. This puts the product owner in a tough situation as the product roadmap becomes littered with features they may not truly believe in. The product backlog begins to align with leader needs and does not align with customer needs. Become a filter for the requests and ideas of leadership before they affect the team. Just how the interaction between leadership and product team could happen will be covered in the last post of this series.