The Institution of Engineering and Technology has recently published a paper entitled An Academic Approach to Transform Organizations One Engineer at a Time by Eduardo Juarez Pineda, Rocio Aldeco-Perez, and Jose Manuel Velazquez. The DA toolkit features in this paper so I thought you’d be interested.
Every year software development industry requires a higher number of trained software engineers who are not only skilled programmers but also talented software projects managers. To deliver high quality software projects, engineers require of the application of sound engineering competencies along with discipline. Obtaining those practices usually require years of experience. Companies are not prepared to invest this time on engineers resulting in a high percentage of deficient projects. In this paper we present a bachelor level competency-based approach that develops and evaluates such competencies during a challenge-based learning experience. In this way, the rate of successful projects where software engineers are involved will be higher, as they have obtained the appropriate competencies to deliver such projects.
A common challenge that we run into when working with organizations adopting Disciplined Agile strategies is helping them to identify and then coach people for the Product Owner (PO) role. This is often easier said than done due to the dearth of people with the required sill and mindset. In this blog we explore several strategies to address this challenge.
What Are You Looking for in a Product Owner?
Let’s begin with a review of the requirements for a good product owner:
Given the skill requirements it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that there is a shortage of candidates for the PO role in most organizations. Let’s explore your options.
There are several potential sources of new product owners. The following table compares and contrasts these options. As you can see there is no ideal option available to you, and the reality is that you will likely need to obtain PO candidates from whatever source you can find.
An interesting strategy that we’ve found fruitful, albeit one that borders on ageism, is to look for potential candidates whom have been with your organization for a long time and who are getting close to retirement. These are experienced people who therefore are likely to have a good understanding of your organization and where it’s headed, they very likely have a good contacts throughout your organization, and they’re very likely looking for an interesting and stable position that will last until they’re ready to retire. Given that the investment required to create a Product Owner is rather steep so therefore you want someone willing to stay in the position for at least several years, and given that these are experienced people looking for a position that will last several years, it’s a very good alignment that you should consider taking advantage of.
Have a Clear Career Path
A critical success factor for attracting people to the role of PO is to have a clear and viable career path for them. If it isn’t obvious to people where they would go next after becoming a PO, or worse yet if becoming a PO is seen as a career dead end, then why would anyone choose to step into this role? One option for POs is to become product managers, if a product management function exists in your organization. Another career path is for POs to move into a senior business or IT leadership position. Being a PO gives people a deeper understanding of how IT fits into the larger organization and how it works in practice – key skills for anyone in senior management these days.
One of the interesting trends that we’re seeing within organizations taking a disciplined agile approach to solution delivery is the preference for stable teams. Stable teams, also called stable product teams or simply long-term teams, are exactly as they sound – they remain (reasonably) stable over time, lasting longer than the life of a single project. This blog explores the differences between project teams and stable teams and then overviews the advantages and disadvantages of the stable team approach. We also explore the issue of how stable teams evolve over time.
As you can see in the following diagram, with a project team approach we say that we bring the team to the work. What we mean by that is that we first identify the need to run a project, perhaps to build the new release of an existing solution or to build the initial release of a new solution, we build a team to do the work. Once the work is done, in this case the solution is successfully released into production, the team is disbanded and its team members move on to other things.
The stable team approach is a bit different. In this case we first build an effective team then we continuously bring valuable work to the team to accomplish. In this situation the work never really ends, but instead we replenish the team’s work item list (or work item pool depending on the lifecycle being followed) regularly. The team stays together and continues to produce value for your organization over time.
Of course the term “stable team” is a bit of a misnomer as they do evolve over time. For example, many people like to stay on a team for a couple of years and then move on to another team to gain new skills and perspectives. This is good for them and good for your organization as it helps to keep your teams fresh. Sometimes you will want to grow or shrink a team. Sometimes you will discover that two people aren’t working well together and you need to split them up. The point is that there are very good reasons for your stable teams to evolve over time.
We wouldn’t be disciplined if we didn’t explore the trade-offs involved with stable teams.
The Advantages of Stable Teams
There are several advantages to stable teams:
The Disadvantages of Stable Teams
There are several disadvantages to stable teams:
Evolving Stable Teams Over Time
Stable doesn’t mean stagnant. Of course you still have basic people management issues such as people wanting to expand their skill set by working on something new by rotating to another team, people leaving the organization, and new people joining the organization. So the team itself may go on for many years even though the membership of the team evolves over time. Ideally these membership changes are not too disruptive: It’s not too bad adding a new person every month or so, or losing people at a similar rate, but gaining or losing several people in a short period of time can be painful.
Start experimenting with stable teams if you’re not already doing so. For most organizations the advantages clearly outweigh the disadvantages. In fact, you can see this in the Longevity decision point of the Form Initial Team goal diagram below.
On February 23, 2016 I gave a webinar entitled (In Agile) Where do all the Managers go? A recording of the webinar is posted on Youtube and a PDF of the slides on Slideshare. This blog overviews the webinar and provides answers to the numerous questions that were asked during it.
The webinar began with a discussion of four trends that are reducing the need for people in management positions:
We then discussed the options that existing managers have in an agile environment. In Disciplined Agile there are four roles that existing managers are likely to transition to: Team Lead, Product Owner, Team Member, and Specialist. Specialist roles – such as Data Manager, Portfolio Manager, Program Manager, and Operations Manager – occur at scale and the corresponding positions are few and far between. Read the article Disciplined Agile Roles at Scale for more details.
We end with words of advice for existing managers: Observe what is actually happening; be flexible; and choose to evolve.
Questions and Answers
We’ve organized the questions into the following topics:
Evolving to New Roles
Will not the existing technical managers be disappointed with only people management work?
That depends on the person. Some will be very happy to do this, some will not.
How will managers fit into a leader role?
It depends on the person again. Some managers are very good leaders right now, some have the potential to be good leaders, and some don’t. They will need training and coaching to fit into their new role(s).
Addressing “Management Activities”
If there are no PMs in Agile, who handles communication with clients (meeting deadlines, priorities, etc.)
The Product Owner.
How does individual performance to be taken up in Agile team? I think that is more crucial and challenging for Agile Leader / Manager.
It is always difficult to address performance-related activities. There are many lines of thought on how to do this. The most progressive is for the Team Lead to provide feedback to team members on a just-in-time basis. If the Team Lead seems behaviour, either desirable or undesirable, but a team member then they should comment on it right away so as to reinforce or dissuade it as soon as possible. Many organizations still have an annual review process, a strategy that many organizations have abandoned due to it’s ineffectiveness, where functional managers get involved with the review process.
I have seen that you have selected the Team Lead as the responsible of assess team members and budgeting the project. In Scrum the Product Owner is compare to a CEO that’s the reason I would say the Product Owner is responsible for bugdeting and about assessing I prefer a more democratic form which involve all the members. So what do you think about PO managing the budget and a democratic assessing vs one single vision assess?
Yes, I misspoke during the webinar. The Product Owner is often responsible for the team’s budget and is responsible for reporting the current financial information to the stakeholders. The Team Lead is often responsible for similar reporting to their management team.
Having multiple people involved with reviews/feedback is usually a pretty good idea. The People Management process blade captures several potential strategies. However, it is still a good idea for the Team Lead to provide feedback as well, see my earlier answer.
Potential Management Roles
I think there is still a need a bridge manager role between Finance, Teams, and PMO type orgs to ensure Product owners have budget… views. Thoughts?
In smaller organizations this likely isn’t an issue. In larger organizations there is often a Portfolio Management effort that is responsible for such issues.
What might be potential responsibilities of an Operations Manager, Data Manager, …?
Please read the article Disciplined Agile Roles at Scale for descriptions of these roles.
Okay, the data management team needs a team manager/leader. Are large organizations using various resource managers? (Although would be less necessary with stable teams I would think)
Exactly. Large organizations still tend to have people in resource manager roles, although sometimes they have different titles such as CoE Lead or HR Manager, but with stable teams they need far fewer of them.
If the team has a Team Lead/Scrum Master that is only the servant leader for 1-2 teams, is it suitable to have people managers?
What value would a “people manager” bring to the team? This is the fundamental dilemma for managers, for everyone for that matter, when an organization moves to agile ways of working. If they’re not bringing real value to the team then they either need to find ways to do so, which likely isn’t whatever management activities they’re trying to cling to, or they need to go elsewhere and try to add value there.
Do you intend to update the DA 2.0 interative pic on the DAD site to talk about “Potential Management Roles at Scale” as mentioned in page 18 of this presentation?
Yes. We actually have something in beta that we haven’t released yet. We’re just about to release an update to the main picture, which in turn requires an update to the role version of the interactive pic.
What is the most basic difference between Project/Program/Portfolio Managers in Agile?
Quick answer is that there isn’t Project Managers in Disciplined Agile nor in methods such as Scrum, XP, and so on. At the program level (a large team of teams) you likely need someone in a Program Manager (or more accurately Program Coordinator) role to coordinate activities (see the Program Management process blade for details). A Portfolio Manager is focused on the IT level and should be concerned about pre-development activities, development/delivery teams that are currently in flight, as well as operational activities.
Also, please read the article Disciplined Agile Roles at Scale for descriptions of these roles.
How does one manage the career path of the Team Leads? Is there career progression beyond a TL to be a specialist or does s/he continue being a TL throughout his career?
Everyone is different, so there isn’t one exact answer. It depends on what the person wants to do and what positions are available to them. If their desire is to move into management then there are fewer IT management positions available to them. If they want to become an AO or PO then they need to work towards getting the skills and experience to fulfill those sorts of roles. The People Management process blade includes career management strategies.
How do you evaluate what roles are/will be necessary?
It depends on the needs of the team in the situation that they face. The primary delivery roles typically exist on all delivery teams and the secondary roles start to appear at scale.
How do you see the role of a BA in agile?
Most existing BAs, like most existing project managers, will need to transition to other roles. However, at scale there is a need for some people in the specialist BA role. I recently has a user group presentation recorded on this very topic. See Disciplined Agile Business Analysis: Lessons from the Trenches.
How do we approach a situation where management wants weekly status reports from a Program Manager who can combine both Team Lead & Product Owner roles, as well as manage multiple projects that may be similar in nature or not.
A few thoughts on this:
In a typical organization, where to team lead(s) report into?
It depends. We’ve seen them report into a Program Manager or a Portfolio Manager. During the transition effort a Project Management Office (PMO) may still exist so Team Leads might report into there, although we often find that there’s a serious cultural and mindset difference that can be very frustrating for everyone involved.
During Your Agile Transformation
What about managers being responsible to support an agile transformation journey in a large organization?
Yes, they would very likely be working as part of an Agile Center of Excellence (CoE), although that would be mostly staffed by experienced agile coaches. There is a need for one or more senior execs to sponsor your agile transformation.
How to deal with “Project Manager” role renamed as “Agile Project Manager” but expected to do the same responsibilities as traditional PM?
We see this sort of stuff all the time unfortunately. First thing to do is to get these people educated in how agile actually works in practice, we’d suggest DA 101: The Disciplined Agile Experience or DA 104: Introduction to Disciplined Agile as your best option to get the whole picture. Next, work through with them how they would actually add real value on the team (see the discussions earlier). Very likely many of the activities that they think need to be are being handled by someone else or have been automated away. Third, get them some coaching to help them to truly transition to agile.
On my project, I am the Team Lead and there is a Project Manager. So far, I have observed that there are several conflicts in responsibilities. How do we come to an agreement of who handles which responsibilities? For my next project, would you suggest I work on a project with no project manager?
We often have to run facilitated workshops in organizations where we work through the roles and responsibilities that are needed in practice. We do this with a wide range of people and we do so in a collaborative and public manner. You need to come to an agreement as to who does what. Doesn’t sound like that’s happened in your case. When you work through this sort of an exercise you quickly discover that you don’t need a project manager, although there may be some project control officer (PCO) responsibilities that would be assigned to either the team lead or some sort of administrative role (such as PCO).
Do you have any advice on how to deal with the removal of the traditional hierarchy – in a flattening of responsibilities, ‘reporting-lines’ and salaries (or having a vast range of skills and pay-scales all with a job title of ‘team member’?)
This is what an agile transformation will accomplish for your organization. It takes time and investment in your people to implement. I highly suggest that you get some experienced coaches to help you do this.
Management is severely, negatively, personally affected by Agile, and will not look fondly upon it in many cases. Any tips to reduce this? Do you recommend mass management reduction, or multiple smaller rounds?
The first step is to recognize that your organization doesn’t exist to create jobs for managers, regardless of what the managers may think. Agile is about focusing on value, so why wouldn’t a good manager be interested in being actively involved with doing so? My recommendation is always to get training and coaching for everyone, including managers. As I described in the webinar there are many options for existing managers in the agile world if they’re willing to be flexible and evolve. Your organization should choose to help people make these transitions to new roles. However, if people are not willing to make the transition then they shouldn’t be surprised if the find themselves being asked to seek employment elsewhere.
It sounds like the person asking about “who’s responsible for delivery” might have used “responsible” when they meant “accountable” – many managers are the single wringable neck for something in their job description. Do you feel Agile draws the same distinction between the two like ITSM, for instance, does?
Agile is based on a collaborative, teamwork-based mindset. Having said that, it does make sense to have someone ultimately responsible for certain things. For example, the Product Owner is responsible for prioritizing the work on an agile team. Similarly, you may have someone in the Release Manager role who is responsible for overall Release Management within your organization. This is particularly important for regulatory environments where by law you need to have someone not involved with development who makes the final decision as to whether the solution is released or not.
From your observations and experience, what is the average timeframe for the managers number to decrease? How long does the process of the shift take?
It depends. We’ve seen this happen over timeframes as short as six months to several years. With solid coaching this process will go a lot faster and smoother.
How to motivate and enable senior leaders to give up control?
In agile, particularly in Disciplined Agile, senior leaders have greater visibility and opportunities to steer than what they had in the traditional world. What they need to do is give up their false sense of control that traditional strategies provide. The real issue usually isn’t senior leaders but instead is middle management. They are the people who are currently performing many of the management tasks that are implemented in a more streamlined manner following agile approaches.
How can middle management start the agility journey when top leaders are not yet on board?
Agile typically begins following a stealth adoption strategy where senior leaders are unaware that it’s happening. The point is that anyone, including middle management, can start adopting agile strategies long before senior leadership gets involved. Strategies such as working collaboratively, enabling your team(s) to plan and organize their own work, adopting dashboard technology, and streamlining the bureaucracy whenever possible is very possible to accomplish on your own.
Thanks for being frank about the role(s) for managers in an evolving Agile culture: Agree, traditional project management organization’s aren’t highlighting these trends (and positive outcomes.)
You’re welcome. Traditional project management organizations often go at it from the point of view of how to continue justifying management activities. We go at it from the point of view of how to improve your overall organizational effectiveness and as a result come to a different conclusion.
Will the idea for stable team become stale after some years? People tend to get frustrated doing same work. What’s the solution in that case?
Stable teams evolve over time. You’ll get people joining the team every so often and similarly leaving the team every so often. It’s natural for people to want to move on and try something new every few years. As a result your organization will still need People Management activities in place that motivate and enable people to manage their careers.
As far as stable teams go, commonly Valve, Inc. is referred to a place where teams are formed around projects that the team members find the most interesting. Project leaders try to sell their project to get developers. Your thoughts?
This is great technique that other organizations may be able to adopt. Allowing teams to form themselves is likely the most effective way to do so. However, like all strategies, there are some potential disadvantages. Team culture may become ingrained and they will not attract people with a different culture who would have the potential to add some real value to the team otherwise.
Is there a method to build the stable teams? Domain, Product, line of business?
There are several strategies for doing this. The most common is to form feature teams that do all of the work to implement a feature as a vertical slice through your entire infrastructure. Another approach is to form component teams that work on a technical or domain component/framework/LoB. A third approach is internal open source. We’ve discussed these strategies in greater detail at Strategies for Organizing Large Agile Teams.
Do you think stable teams concept will work in service-based organisation?
Yes. It’s a bit more difficult because you’d be bringing entire customer projects to the team at once instead of a flow of smaller features. Of course you can break each large project up into smaller features and feed them to teams in an interleaved manner, requiring a sophisticated approach to requirements management.
Training and Certification
What baseline training do you recommend for agile managers?
A good place to start is training on agile thinking, often referred to as how to be agile. Then I would recommend training that describes the full delivery lifecycle from end-to-end, something like DA 101: The Disciplined Agile Experience or DA 104: Introduction to Disciplined Agile. You want to understand all aspects of the agile delivery process, not just the management ones. Scrum training is popular but far too narrow. SAFe training isn’t for beginners.
I would like to participate in a certification workshop/further training. There doesn’t seem to be many offerings in the US. Are there plans to expand training opportunities in the states?
Yes. In fact we have training coming up in the Baltimore area in March and Philadelphia in April. We will have more open enrollment workshops scheduled soon. Please visit the homepage of the Disciplined Agile Consortium for a listing of upcoming public workshops.
What should we be telling folks that have PMP’s – are they still valid? is PMP training moving toward Agile software development.
Yes, the PMI is moving towards agile but they have a very large ship to turn. Unfortunately the PMI training tends to suffer from the challenges that I described earlier – it seems to promote a rather unrealistic vision of how managers can potentially fit into agile.
Disciplined Agile certification is for agile professionals working in enterprise-class settings such as banks, insurance companies, retailers, and government agencies. You’re not working in ideal situations – you have legacy cultures, legacy systems, and legacy processes to overcome – but that doesn’t mean you can’t make things better. You take pride in your work and you want to create environments where you can be effective, and you can do that by adopting Disciplined Agile strategies.
For organizations the primary value of disciplined agile certifications are that they indicate that people have gained a certain level of knowledge and in some cases expertise in Disciplined Agile methods. Our principled approach to Disciplined Agile certification results in respected certifications that you can trust. There are several benefits of Disciplined Agile certification for organizations:
The Disciplined Agile Certification Program
The Disciplined Agile Certification program has three main certifications for practitioners – Certified Disciplined Agilist (CDA), Certified Disciplined Agile Practitioner (CDAP), and Certified Disciplined Agile Coach (CDAC) – that build upon each other. There is an additional designation, Disciplined Agilist (DA) and a fifth designation for trainers, Certified Disciplined Agile Instructor (CDAI).
Certified Disciplined Agilist (CDA): Shu (Beginner)
This certification indicates that the holder has comprehensive knowledge of how the Disciplined Agile solution delivery process works from beginning to end. To earn this Shu-level certification you need to pass a comprehensive test. It typically takes between 10 and 15 hours of classroom or reading time to prepare for the test. The primary benefits of this certification are that it:
Certified Disciplined Agile Practitioner (CDAP): Ha (Intermediate)
This certification indicates that the holder has comprehensive knowledge of how the Disciplined Agile solution delivery process works from beginning to end and has experience applying agile strategies in practice. To earn this certification you must have earned the CDA first, have at least two years of agile work experience (you are required to provide references), and you have passed the CDAP test. The primary benefits of this certification are that it shows you’re:
Certified Disciplined Agile Coach (CDAC): Ri (Expert)
This certification indicates that the holder has comprehensive knowledge of how the Disciplined Agile solution delivery process works from beginning to end, has experience applying it in practice, and has proven giveback to the community. To earn this certification you must have earned the CDAP first, have at least five years of agile work experience (you are required to provide references), and have gone through a board-level interview. The primary benefit of this certification is that it shows you’re qualified to coach agile delivery teams. Effective coaches must have deep knowledge in what they are coaching people in, and that requires proven experience.
To retain your certification you should be dedicated to continuous learning of agile strategies in general, and in Disciplined Agile (DA) strategies in particular. Once someone is certified there are no direct membership dues. For CDA’s to retain their certification level they must take and pass the CDA test every two years. Having said that, at the two year point a practicing CDA is eligible to apply to become a CDAP anyway. Anyone with a CDAP will need to either pass the CDAP test every two years, or if they are qualified to apply for and become a CDAC. CDACs must provide proof of continuing give back to the DA community.