Agile Team Lead?

Mike Bria recently posted a story on InfoQ discussing how a group of agilistas are arguing for the creation of a new role within agile and Scrum teams called the “agile team lead,” designed to effectively replace the ScrumMaster and Project Manager positions. For purists, it’s hard not to be skeptical, especially considering the delicate balance of authority and responsibility that marks the composition of Scrum teams. But for the sake of entertaining the idea, the following criteria summarize the group’s ideas about the duties that agile team leadership entails:

  • “Continuous Leadership
    Understanding the team’s place in the organization’s goals, being a single point of leadership (for the team) and accountability (to stakeholders), building a “safe container” for the team to work within, growing trust and respect between team and stakeholders, and continuously improving team cohesion.
  • “Continuous Planning
    Ensuring the team become increasing capable of meeting their own established commitments, ensuring everything remain “big and visible”, manages metrics, making “the plan the bad guy” (as opposed to the people), and ensuring the “plan changes with demand/supply”.
  • “Continuous Execution
    “Monitoring/managing team velocity/throughput”, securing resources, removing and escalating blockages. Ultimately, “keeping flow, momentum and focus in the team”.
  • “Continuous Risk Reduction
    Identifying risks and making their “potential impacts big and visible to the right people”, ensuring risk reduction occurs, and quantifying risk management effectiveness.
  • “Continuous Improvement (Agile Coaching)
    Driving the “improvement of the overall Definition of Done“, sensing and drawing attention to performance breakdowns, facilitating team improvements in the right areas, and helping the team learn emerging practices from outside itself.”

Though several Scrum and agile practitioners have supported this idea, my favorite response belongs to CST Tobias Mayer, who states: “Creating a ‘role’ of team lead is the beginning of a slippery slope back to command and control, It is a cop-out, an excuse for not facing the real challenge of nurturing a leader-full team.”

I can’t help but agree. This role not only seems to disrupt the balance of power in Scrum and agile, but seems to be moving backwards—toward traditional management practices. I’m curious to know what you think. Would an agile team lead role solve problems at your organization or just create more? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Posted under Uncategorized

This post was written by admin on December 17, 2009

2 Comments so far

  1. admin November 15, 2011 11:44 AM

    I would have to agree that Agilists overemphasize the project management aspects of Agile and under-emphasize the technical practices that underpin it. CI, continuous deplyment, pair programming, and the like deserve much more focus than we have given them Stay tuned. I’ll address this in a future blog.

  2. Cyril January 23, 2011 10:19 AM

    After reading quite a few articles on scrum/agile, I find a lots of emphasis on management & very little importance to technical skills/ability. In software development do we simply ignore this?

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