Agile Sessions and Authority

Len Lagestee

Len Lagestee is an agile coach and consultant based in Chicago. He runs illustratedagile.com.

Team dynamics can be disrupted when a person of authority sits in on a meeting. In the case of daily standups and other Agile events, a manager’s presence seems at odds with principles of self-organization. But in the spirit of openness, maybe sometimes it can work. Here are some guidelines.

I have always been a proponent of keeping most Agile events and rituals open and transparent. If anyone in the organization would like to stop by a daily stand-up session or experience a sprint review, the more the merrier — with one exception. If you are a manager with direct reports on an Agile team, I believe a set of expected behaviors should apply to you. This is not meant to be exclusionary but your presence, reactions, words, and body language will impact team dynamics, and sometimes negatively.

For example, I was in the stand-up meeting for a well-performing team a while back when a manager for some of the developers appeared unannounced. This manager proceeded to stand right next to the information radiator. When team members talked about the progress of their work and their impediments, the manager would ask for clarification on what was being done and asked technical questions about what was being developed.

As the stand-up continued the tension grew. By the time the last person spoke all attention was focused on the manager and instead of speaking to the team …

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"Nearly every great advance in science arises from a crisis in the old theory, through an endeavor to find a way out of the difficulties created. We must examine old ideas, old theories, although they belong to the past, for this is the only way to understand the importance of the new ones and the extent of their validity."

- Albert Einstein

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