Agile transformation: how to support the line manager?

Wed 29 Apr 2020

The keystone of the agile transformation, the line manager needs adapted support to address his transformation projects. To move from « Command & Control » to « Animate & Debate » constitutes a real shift in approach. Indeed a lack of consistency between the rollout of agile frameworks and a bad management posture plays a role in the skepticism facing these methodological frameworks. It can be a source of demotivation of the teams or even of talent loss. 

 So what are the levers to support the line manager in change management?

Establish the manager’s motivation by taking into account one’s inherent obstacles 

For a person to support change, 3 dimensions must be addressed.

Understand the fundamental purpose of a transformation

Converting to agility in the major groups is sometimes considered as an announcement effect. To avoid that, the management must take time to explain the reasons for transformation and the means to infuse this new culture into the various teams.

As a link between top management and operational teams, the line manager is one of the first profiles to embark. For this purpose, seminars are privileged moments for supporting the line manager and involving him in this transformation.

Identify the impacts to project into one’s new role

The seminars are also the occasion for exchanging with peers to identify the impacts at one’s level. Projecting oneself into new roles and new interactions also goes through meetings with third party companies. Experience feedbacks indeed help debate about one’s challenges, get inspiration, and identify one’s mistakes to overcome them.

Develop one’s know-how and soft skills 

To adjust one’s know-how and soft skills, various complementary HR tools may be activated. Training will help the line manager master his new work environment. It is a prerequisite to support one’s team members in their new roles and responsibilities.

To strengthen his leader-servant posture, encourage self-organization and team autonomy, the manager must do an introspective work. Having the line manager supported by a coach will help him step back on his management methods and identify the areas for improvement. Ultimately, this will help him build his own action plan to adjust his soft skills and know-how to be a success factor for transformation.

«Support is very important. It goes through training and coaching»* 

Form managers groups to lift the extrinsic obstacles

Cooperate to develop collective performance

Today, decisions must be made increasingly rapidly. A digital project or the evolution of a digital product, by its transverse nature, impacts numerous stakeholders in the company. How to rapidly decide in a more and more complex and uncertain world?

Moreover, organizational changes on a company level have impacts on the other levels, hence the importance for a company to have a systemic approach. How to make governance more « agile » within a major group?

To answer both questions, companies rely more and more often on collective intelligence

Use a learning organization approach to continuously adapt

This need to align and to frequently readjust is time-consuming for the managers. But this work is essential to promote operational agility. To frame this work while trying to improve the processes, certain companies use participative, iterative, and evolutionary approaches. 

The most used today is the adaptative governance. This pragmatic approach relies on several workgroups: the circles. Each circle defines its fundamental purpose. The workgroup preserves moments dedicated to exchanges on strategy, governance, and operations. 

The line manager, as a member of one or several circles, uses the same principles as his team: self-organization, adaptation to change, adoption of a learning approach. The line manager and the members of the several circles live agility by using an iterative and structured process. 

«Collective problem-solving relies on a greater sharing of speaking time and the review of a greater diversity of subjects»* 

To support the line manager: in conclusion

The agile transformation may be a complex moment for the line manager. It is a success as much as a failure factor when he is not enough supported. 

Some managers will rather refocus on their expertise or combine leadership roles and roles introduced by scale agility. Product manager, domain expert, Epic owner are as many new ideas for career development open to these profiles. 

In any case, the company must help each line manager bring about this change. It must support him in the development of new skills and adjustment of his management posture.

*customer verbatim 

Thanks to Baptiste Aubree and Marie-Cécile Dolezal for their contributions

Gwendolen Michau

Managing Consultant