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Resources for Agile Leaders

Improving as an Agile Leader

Core tenets and important questions surrounding Agile Leadership are addressed in the following collection of resources that contain practical ideas and tips that you can apply in your journey as an agile leader.

It's important to note that the terms "leader" and "manager" are frequently used as if they mean the same thing, but they actually represent two different concepts. Recognizing these differences is essential, especially in agile organizations where flexibility and adaptability are crucial.

Bookmark or save and return to those resources often; you can find your saved resources in your Scrum.org profile under Saved Content.

 


Agile Leadership

Agility is not “a state of being.” It is a system for constant learning and adapting, an essential configuration for a contemporary organization. Agile leadership is a learned response to the business world’s demands. It is not a job title.

As such, agility is something leaders can achieve and teach. When this occurs on a company-wide, ongoing basis, leader by leader and team by team, your overall culture becomes more agile, more responsive. Companies need to master agility to deal with change and disruption as markets shift, customer needs multiply, external circumstances exert unexpected pressure, and competitors expand, contract or disappear.

Agile leadership is a leadership model that shifts from a command-and-control style of leadership in which leaders make all the key decisions, to a more empowered, collaborative style of leadership in which leaders help teams to become more effective at making decisions. 

Leadership Styles

“Leadership is fundamentally about confronting the unknown and growing the organization’s ability to deal with it.”
 

Book
Whatever your role in the organization is, this guide will help you master those skills and mindsets a whole lot faster.
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Learning Series
The ways that leaders present themselves and interact with their colleagues can either support agility, or defeat it. Learn the difference between leaders and managers and the traits of an agile leadership style. Explore why we speak more about agile leadership and not servant leadership.

 

 

How can leaders help organizations form more effective goals?

“Every agile leader’s journey is different.. Yet each shares a singular goal: to help their organization achieve resilience and flexibility while seeking success.”

Many organizations chase activity or output related goals as a metric of success, rather than customer outcome-oriented goals. Activity-oriented goals focus on doing things, and output-oriented goals focus on producing things. While doing things and producing things are necessary, having a clear idea of what teams are trying to achieve for customers is important because it helps them to make better decisions. 

Learning Series
Business strategy is informed by the company’s mission and vision, and in turn informs individual product visions. An organization inspects and adapts its business strategy based on feedback gathered from delivering product Increments.
Module
Customer outcomes are the results that customers and users experience when they use a product. This piece describes the characteristics of customer outcomes as well as how to define them.
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Module
This piece includes common mistakes and pitfalls for Scrum Teams to watch for when using a product roadmap.
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Book
This definitive guide will help your organization identify its true purpose, improve its ability to reach goals, and build a culture of trust, transparency, and growth.
5 from 1 rating

 

 

 


 

How can leaders help to nurture agility?

Traditional organizations and agile approaches don’t mix well because the hierarchical status reward and authority structure of the traditional organization makes it difficult to empower teams to make quick decisions based on their experiences. Learn more about "Status: The Invisible Third Rail in Digital Transformation".

To counter this, and to nurture agility in its early growth stages, agile leaders need to create a protective environment in which agile ways of working can thrive, without having to fight against the traditional organization’s overpowering inertia, because it is impossible to establish an effective agile organization that follows a traditional organization’s rules. (e.g. developing a complete and detailed project plan for all work, using a phase-gate model, staffing teams with part-time members, etc). This involves spending political capital to get permission for agile teams to “break the rules” and work in a new way, and providing ongoing active support to ensure that agile teams do not “get stuck” waiting for teams in the other parts of the organization to do things the agile team needs to have done.

The most important thing is, in the end, to have an important goal that the organization needs to achieve, and for everyone to believe that an agile approach is the only way to achieve that goal.
 

Whitepaper
Scrum Studio creates an environment in which empiricism can thrive. It may exist as a physically separate organization, or it may simply be a protected part of an existing organization, especially when it is just getting started.   Read this paper to learn more.
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How can leaders help teams become self-reliant and high-performing?

High-performing teams are more than collections of high-performing individuals; high-performing teams coalesce when employees unite in an agile work group that can achieve more toward a goal than the individual members could achieve independently. Those who operate with the mistaken belief that employees are completely interchangeable and teams are relatively easy to create are heading for trouble.

The first step in forming a high-performing team is to help the team choose its own members, and in so doing bring together people who want to work together. When managers or someone else in the organization choose the team members, they send team members a message that they are not trusted to choose the people with whom they work.

It also takes time for a team to become high-performing. It takes time, experience, and nurturing leadership to help agile teams develop.  When growing or scaling a team, consider that bringing in a new team member can revert a vulnerable, agile team back to its team-building, formative stages. 
 

Learning Series
The best way to support a team working on complex problems is to give them the space to determine how to do their work, rather than directing them. Learn about self-managing teams and their characteristics. Explore some myths and misunderstandings about self-management.
Module
Traditional management models consider the work of people and team development to be the job of the team’s manager. Scrum puts specific responsibility on Scrum Masters to support and guide Scrum Team members (as well as other members of the organization). However, team development is not only th...
4.8 from 29 ratings

 

 

How can leaders help teams develop cross-functional skills?

Agile teams need to have all the skills they need to deliver a valuable product Increment. If they have to wait for specialists from other teams to provide help when they need it, they will spend a lot of their time waiting for those people to become available. For this reason, high-performing teams need to be cross-functional.

 

Module
Ideally, a Scrum Team has all the skills it needs to deliver a valuable product Increment. However, in practice, this happens rarely. Developing complex products for a complex world requires skills that even highly cross-skilled teams will lack at times. For instance, if they have questions about le...
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How can leaders help teams improve their decision-making skills?

One area that leaders need to especially nurture is the team’s ability to make empowered, independent decisions. This is not an all-at-once transition; teams need to work from making simple decisions to more complex decisions while proving themselves and earning trust.

Module
Scrum Teams lose valuable time waiting for someone else to make a decision. The more a Scrum Team is empowered to make decisions for itself, and the more they understand how they want to make decisions, the less time it will waste waiting for a decision, the more effective it is able to be, and the ...
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How can leaders help remove impediments?

Leaders remove impediments by actively eliminating or reducing obstacles that hinder team progress toward goals. To do this they foster open communication to understand issues, provide support and advocate for the team to create a clear path forward.

Agile leaders streamline and adapt organizational processes that impede teams, eliminating waste. For instance, by reducing queueing for external help and ensuring supporting roles are adequately-staffed, leaders can minimize the time that teams spend waiting for help. Protecting the team from outside interference and conflict also helps maintain focus. Additionally, since high utilization reduces effectiveness and increases waiting times, leaders can improve overall effectiveness by helping decrease the number of contexts..
 

Module
Scrum Master job descriptions typically include the following: “Help remove impediments for the team” or “Accountable for removing impediments”. Organizations clearly find impediment removal to be an important aspect of the role. But what is meant by impediments? Should a Scrum Master remove all the...
5 from 2 ratings

 

 

 


 

How can leaders help restore lost focus?

Leaders can restore lost focus by helping teams to create clear, measurable, specific goals focused on customer outcomes, and then by orienting the reward system of the organization around achieving customer outcome-oriented goals. Measurable goals give focus. Also, leaders can ensure that everyone understands the overall vision and their accountability in achieving it. This means that leaders must help the organization form a vision based on improving customer outcomes. They also need to help teams to form goals that, if achieved, help the organization to make measurable progress toward realizing the vision. Teams also need help with defining measures that help them understand whether they are achieving their goals, so that they can adapt based on feedback if they are not.

Leaders can facilitate alignment and address distractions. They might help minimize external interruptions and create a supportive environment that encourages concentration and effectiveness.

Lost focus often occurs when a team works on several contexts at the same time. This act of shifting focus from one task to another is called context-switching and can significantly impair productivity. Research indicates that context switching can reduce productivity* due to the cognitive load required to refocus on a new task, leading to longer time spent on a task and increased error rates. Leaders can help mitigate this by helping understand teams and businesses that focus (for instance, a goal) leads to effectiveness.
*https://www.apa.org/topics/research/multitasking

 

Module
People lose focus because of two different kinds of interruptions: Planned and Unplanned. Planned interruptions include things like:Attending scheduled meetings other than Scrum events. Every organization has a variety of general meetings, including company or divisional/departmental information sha...
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Module
The phrase “un-done work” refers to work that is not finished by the end of the Sprint, according to the Scrum Team’s Definition of Done. Un-done work is, simply put, waste. It adds no value to the product Increment and may even reduce its value. Ultimately, un-done work represents time that the Sc...
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Module
There are reasons why Scrum Teams may have un-done work at the end of the Sprint, but these occurrences should be infrequent as they are detrimental to the team’s ability to deliver value. There are various techniques that they can try to minimize having un-done work, including:Ensuring that everyon...
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How can agility threaten the traditional organization, and how can leaders help?

Agility can pose a threat to traditional organizations as it often challenges established processes and mindsets that rely on predictability, resource utilization and stability. Agility also threatens the status, compensation, career paths and limited control of traditional managers.

The emphasis on flexibility, rapid reaction to changes and decentralized decision-making can create friction with traditional, rigid structures. Managers who benefit from traditional hierarchies, processes and power structures find themselves at a disadvantage. Traditional managers, in particular, might lose their established authority. This disruption might lead to resistance to change, creating obstacles in adopting agility, agile frameworks and practices and potentially causing organizational conflict. To address these challenges, organizations and leaders need to foster a culture that values and rewards adaptability, continuous learning, innovation, communication and collaboration. 
 

Recommended Training for Agile Leaders

Applying Professional Scrum, Professional Agile Leadership Essentials and Professional Agile Leadership - Evidence-Based Management are our core courses for Agile Leaders. 

Get an introduction to Professional Scrum and learn how the Scrum framework and an agile mindset enables teams to deliver more value, satisfy stakeholders and work better together. Experience Professional Scrum while working in Scrum Teams over a series of Sprints: learn Scrum while using Scrum. 

In this course designed for managers and leaders of agile teams, gain a practical understanding of how to best support, guide and coach your team(s) to create conditions for greater agility. Understand the role that leaders play and be prepared to take action in creating a successful agile environment.

 

 

Executives, managers, Scrum Masters, Product Owners, coaches and consultants experience how to guide teams toward continuously improving customer outcomes, organizational capabilities and business results. Learn how to apply the EBM framework to set clear goals and measures.

 

 

 

All Recommended Courses for Agile Leaders