One component of agile approach is a servant leadership style which is based on the following characteristics (source Scrum.org):
· Serving others, not yourself
· Not leading by title
· Leadership that endures
· Helping people develop and perform as highly as possible
· Selfless management of team members
· Promoting genuine team ownership
· Harnessing the collective power of a team
Servant leadership is the key for building empowered, self-managed teams and develop their high performance. There are differences between more directing, managing style that is attributed to the traditional waterfall methods, though agile mindset as such is indeed not necessarily related to the project management method you apply. However, it may still mean that when you transition from one environment to another, or happen to be part of the agile transformation, you need to revisit and adjust your leadership style and methods.
So where is the good news? There are several recent posts on the projectmanagement.com raising awareness of professional gender gap between female and male project managers. Female project managers are in minority (estimate says 20-30%) and project management discipline feels to be male dominated. At the same time companies are running gender diversity programs and women are seeking for advice how to progress in their careers and reach equal pay.
Can the agile project management be the opportunity to enhance presence of female project managers and make the gap smaller?
Female leadership is characterized as follows and its similarity with the servant leadership is striking:
Emotional prevalence, empathy, focus on teamwork, strong communicators, leading by example, great listeners, motivated by challenges, persistent, people oriented, nurturing, strong tendency to cooperate, having capacity to think and operate in different directions (multitasking), more prone to change and innovations, flexible.
Does it mean that any female project manager would be great Scrum Master or Agile Coach? Indeed not. But when thinking how to bring more women to the project management discipline, the current agile popularity can be an open window of opportunity. Especially when role of a Scrum Masters is to facilitate the team and not to prescribe solutions, so the interpersonal skills, natural focus on teamwork, caring for the others, ability to multitask and make decisions while considering several aspects and flexibility, may offset a strong technical background.
Ladies, go for it!
My most recent experience with project management is in non-profit environment where all of our team members are volunteers. Working with volunteers on long term assignments bring many specific challenges and opportunities yet I believe there are principles that may be transferred to a corporate world to benefit both individuals and companies.
Selection of the project management approach
The decision to select agile project management methods was easy. Purpose of our work was to realize a new product vision. We needed to keep flexibility, create ability to adjust quickly and manage progress by learning market feedback.
Another reason came from nature of volunteering - volunteers may leave the project any moment, so we needed to manage the work by assigning small, understandable tasks within short time intervals (sprints) that required minimum oversight and were possible to be completed shortly.
“Agility plays a central role in the organization of the future, as companies race to replace structural hierachies with networks of teams empowered to action”, 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Study.
We would not have a chance to finish our project without agile approach. Companies seem to have a choice and that may slow them down. Is it possible to see any new product release or upgrade as a task for empowered, self-sufficient team that wants to succeed while not relying on a big company behind their back?
Motivation and engagement of the team members
Our whole team consisted of volunteers. Volunteers dedicate portion of their free time to give back to communities and support their cause. They are driven by their passion and willingness to learn new things. They are also professionals who are glad to acquire new skills and use their expertise and experience to make the project a success.
Employees in organizations are indeed not volunteers. They operate within their range of responsibilities, yet they are expected to deliver innovations and continuously improve their operating processes. How to unlock potential of employees and support their professional growth within an organization? We’ve used a free volunteering marketplace to offer professionals to learn new skills, get practical experience and grow with us. Our project culture is open minded, transparent and empowering.
True talent development in a corporate environment should not be different, it requires to take the risk and enable employees to try new tasks and step outside their comfort zone. I like this example of large organization change, source McKinsey interview with ING leadership management on their agile transformation:
“We requested everyone to reapply for a position in the new organization. This selection process was intense, with a higher weighting for culture and mind-sets than knowledge or experience.... nearly 40 percent are in a different position to the job they were in previously.”
Non-profit organizations and corporations don’t seem to have much in common, but that’s just the first sight. Both models seek operating efficiency, results, effective dealing with limited resources and delivering innovation to better serve their customers or communities.
Thanks for reading this!