Seeding and Cultivating Agile Champions

cultivate-networkThis morning I read the interesting article ‘The Agile Manager’s Practice: Seeding and Cultivating Agile Champions‘ by Michael Hamman. It describes how growing and cultivating Agile Champions is a key practice of designing the desired environments. Michael emphasizes that it’s about cultivating conditions in which agile practices can flourish.

My intention was to share some of the highlights of this article, but as a result I almost copied it as a whole… However, please check the original article for the entire context.

Designing Environments

  • The Agile Manager undergoes a mindset shift from managing (or driving) to results towards designing environments that generate results;
  • One key environment design practice is to cultivate relationships with, and empower agilechampions’ within your organization;
  • Agile champions are individuals, from different parts (and levels) of your organization, who may or may not be on agile teams, who are passionate about the transformational potential of agile, and have some particular skill or set of connections to bring agile thinking and capability to their particular area of work.

Two Kinds of Champions

  • There are two kinds of agile champions: the Activist and the Sleeper Cell;
  • The Activist tends to have a somewhat pronounced role in the organization and he or she uses that role to influence others;
  • The Sleeper Cell is the person who is likely not working on an agile team, and in fact may not be directly affiliated with agile, per se. However, he or she has seen the possibility that agility can bring;
  • Both Activists and Sleeper Cells do part of the work of agile management, which is seeding conditions that favor the gradual adoption of agile practices.

Growing Agile Champions

How can you grow Agile champions? There are three steps: Expose, Identify, Relate and Enable.

  • Expose: creating a variety of occasions in which people throughout your organization, especially those who are not on Agile teams but who may be curious about Agile, learn about the principles of Agile;
  • Identify: Keep an eye out for people who seem particularly interested in Agile;
  • Relate/Enable: Find a way to connect 1-on-1 with that person.

Michael did a great job describing the mindset shift an Agile Manager undergoes. Moving away from driving to results, moving towards designing environments that generate results.

Other Responsibilities of the Agile Manager

As an addition to the described mindset shift I’ve added a few tasks I also consider relevant for the Agile Manager:

  • Acting as a Servant Leader and hereby fostering an environment of trust at all levels in the organization;
  • Creating a structure which within people and results can flourish;
  • Engaging people by providing organizational purpose and vision;
  • Providing the frame for true delegation of operational decision power to the operational level;
  • Encouraging a fail-friendly environment;
  • Understanding resources are material, people aren’t objects;
  • Trying to be redundant by continuously asking: what does this team/department need in order to manage itself?
  • Building a long term team culture with the product as king;
  • Creating a culture of experimentation;
  • Building solid relationships with every supplier;
  • Pursuing a culture of continuous improvement.

Michaels article helped me understand the role of the Agile Manager better. I hope the shared highlights and the additional tasks for the Agile Manager are useful for you as well.