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Agile Test and Development Managers – Oxymoron?

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Software teams have a wide variety of structures, some are Agile, some are on a journey to Agile, some are happy with a Waterfall approach and there are many, many more.

When teams plan to change to an Agile approach though, a common question that comes up is “What happens to the dev and test manager?”. This is a good question as it affects many teams and individuals in existing roles.

First of all, it’s worth pointing out that in the Agile manifesto specifies nothing about roles. It is a bunch of values and principles. In our opinion, good values and principles. This would leave options such as having a Test and Dev manager open as a possibility.

If you decide to adopt an “Agile” approach such as SCRUM which is more prescriptive, there are only two defined roles, a Product Owner and a SCRUM Master PLUS a “development team” – i.e. do-ers not managers. So, strictly, if you follow SCRUM to the letter you should not need Development or Test Mangers. But SCRUM does not equal Agile (in its purest sense).

We would argue though that Agile doesn’t strictly preclude Test and Dev Managers, although it does suggest that a better situation would be to have self-organising teams. If you take the principle “Build projects around motivated individuals.
Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.” this could be easily read as don’t have command and control managers… but equally if you are in a highly bureaucratic environment, the team may decide to have managers to defend the core team from the bureaucracy. This may not be an ideal situation but it is the best one to get the job done, which is what matters.

Another point is that a team who is transitioning to Agile probably can’t do so overnight. Perhaps the Test Manager and Development manager need to nurture the team to become more self-sufficient and step further and further back. There will come a point where the team can be left to self-organise. This becomes a coaching role. Of course when the job is done, the coaches will need to move to a different team.

So, strictly speaking Agile and Dev managers can exist in certain situations, but as more teams move closer to Agile, it would seem as though the number of those roles will be diminishing.

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Agile Test and Development Managers – Oxymoron?

31 Dec 2015

Software teams have a wide variety of structures, some are Agile, some are on a journey to Agile, some are happy with a Waterfall approach and there are many, many more.

When teams plan to change to an Agile approach though, a common question that comes up is “What happens to the dev and test manager?”. This is a good question as it affects many teams and individuals in existing roles.

First of all, it’s worth pointing out that in the Agile manifesto specifies nothing about roles. It is a bunch of values and principles. In our opinion, good values and principles. This would leave options such as having a Test and Dev manager open as a possibility.

If you decide to adopt an “Agile” approach such as SCRUM which is more prescriptive, there are only two defined roles, a Product Owner and a SCRUM Master PLUS a “development team” – i.e. do-ers not managers. So, strictly, if you follow SCRUM to the letter you should not need Development or Test Mangers. But SCRUM does not equal Agile (in its purest sense).

We would argue though that Agile doesn’t strictly preclude Test and Dev Managers, although it does suggest that a better situation would be to have self-organising teams. If you take the principle “Build projects around motivated individuals.
Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.” this could be easily read as don’t have command and control managers… but equally if you are in a highly bureaucratic environment, the team may decide to have managers to defend the core team from the bureaucracy. This may not be an ideal situation but it is the best one to get the job done, which is what matters.

Another point is that a team who is transitioning to Agile probably can’t do so overnight. Perhaps the Test Manager and Development manager need to nurture the team to become more self-sufficient and step further and further back. There will come a point where the team can be left to self-organise. This becomes a coaching role. Of course when the job is done, the coaches will need to move to a different team.

So, strictly speaking Agile and Dev managers can exist in certain situations, but as more teams move closer to Agile, it would seem as though the number of those roles will be diminishing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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