The agile manager, a prerequisite for the company's agile transformation

Written by Benoît de Pompignan, on 06 February 2018


To counter a common misconception, it's not the operational teams that are most resistant to changes towards agility and DevOps.

Agility promises them greater autonomy and the ability to focus on their core tasks by reducing low-value-added activities such as reporting or documentation. Most individuals who value quality work welcome this transformation with enthusiasm.

However, management, despite embracing agile methods for their efficiency and flexibility, often struggles more with transformation. The change requested is much more significant for them.

In summary, managers often transition from a role of giving orders and controlling to a role of facilitating and trusting their teams. They are no longer expected to be the decision-maker solely responsible for the success or failure and the overall profitability of their teams. Instead, they are asked to create a context in which each team member can be responsible and capable of making decisions within their competence.

Culturally, French managers are attached to hierarchy and authority (let's not forget that Polytechnique, which trains the elite of French managers, is a military institution :-)). Although this is changing, it is still somewhat unnatural for them to let go of command and fully trust their subordinates. However, these aspects are crucial for teams to be autonomous and truly agile.

With part of their work no longer required, managers can refocus on another essential task for the company, which is commonly overshadowed by command and control. This task involves creating, sharing, and guiding teams towards a common vision of the company; in other words, returning to their leadership role.

The agile transformation of managers is ultimately more of a mindset change than a methodological one. That's why it is deeper, more complex, and therefore slower to materialize. It is also a prerequisite for the transformation of operational teams, as without transformed management, they cannot be aligned with a common vision or be autonomous.