Management is a Function, not a Role

Self organizing teams are self managing teams. They govern themselves. They are self governing.

Some folks new to Agile think that when you go Agile, that management goes “out the window”, is a bad word, is evil, is something that imposes prescriptions, issues commands, and is controlling, and something to be avoided.

The reality is that the need for planning, measuring, and observing does not go away in Agile.

Far from it! Rather, the function of management is handled by the team, instead being handled by a single person in a role like the “project management” role.

Moral of the story: the need for management does not disappear in Agile. On the contrary. We actually do more planning in Agile. We do it as needed, continuously, and just in time. The function of management does not go away. Instead, the function of management shifts from a person (in a role) to a self managing team.

The Core Idea: In self managing teams, management is a function, not a role. The team handles the function of managing itself.

Self management aligns with this principle, found in the  Agile Manifesto:

Build projects around motivated individuals.
Give them the environment and support they need,
and trust them to get the job done.

Mar 27 WALTHAM MEETING: Effective Product Ownership: The Path to Mastering the Role

Slides from this talk are available: Effective Product Ownership

Pictures from the 3/27 meeting:

Frank Saucier gave a value packed talk on PO techniques at the 3/27 Waltham meeting. About 75 people attended the meeting, There was some lively discussion and debate after the meeting about how to help organizations learn faster via agile & Scrum practices.

Most Product Owners have a grasp of the Product Owner role defined by Scrum and they play the role every day, but do they truly seek to master the role? If not, why not? Could it be that a good number of Product Owners are blessed with the role by management without actually getting the chance to opt into the role? Could it be that Product Owners don’t get the necessary training they need? Could it be that Product Owners don’t feel safe enough to experiment with techniques to find out what works and what doesn’t. The answer is probably a little bit of all of those and maybe a few more things mixed in.

At this session you will learn:

  • The characteristics of an effective Product Owner.
  • The perceived and dynamic nature of value.
  • How to apply a new perspective – “Triple View” value.
  • Why businesses don’t like where they are on the value timeline.
  • How to build and mine a “value team”.
  • How and why to “artifact” the product backlog.


About The Presenter:

Frank Saucier is an Agile coach and trainer at FreeStanding Agility. He has over 20 years experience in software and technology spanning software development, computer engineering, application engineering, technology marketing, & project management. He has domain expertise in  Enterprise Mobile, Insurance, Financial Systems, Online Publishing, Design Automation, Defense Systems, and Web Technologies. You can reach Frank by email at

Meeting Agenda:

6:30 pm Introduction

7:00 pm Food, beverages, and socializing

7:20 pm Main event

8:20 pm Done

8:30 pm Done Done

Meeting Location:

200 West Street
Waltham, MA 02451

The event room is located on the 1st floor. Enter the building. Take the hallway to the left. Walk past the elevators. The door to the event room will be on your right before the restrooms.


Mar 28 DOWNTOWN MEETING: Agile’s Dirty Little Secret – It Helps You Make Money

Agile is often introduced into companies as a process that only the engineering teams have to use. When Agile is only looked at in this narrow scope, it’s limited in terms of the benefits that it can bring to the business. There is a better approach. One where Executives and Sr Management see Agile as a holistic approach to adapting their culture and building customer value. When companies take this approach, Agile has a much bigger potential benefit. It can help those companies make more money. Now do I have your attention?

At this session you will learn:

  • The importance of Agile as a business strategy.
  • How Agile can lead to passionate customers.
  • How Agile can lead to more productive employees.
  • How all this leads to making more money.


About The Presenter:

Mario Moreira is an Agile Enterprise Change Agent and Agile Coach who helps lead organizations in their Agile transformation efforts. He is a seasoned Agile Coach working with very large distributed teams to small co-located and supports all levels of personnel from Scrum teams, ScrumMasters, Product Owners, middle management, to Executive management. Mario is a certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Scrum Professional (CSP), and has implemented Scrum, Extreme Programming (XP), and Kanban practices including Continuous integration and build to numerous product teams and enterprises.

Meeting Agenda:

6:00 pm Introduction

6:30 pm Beverages and socializing

6:50 pm Main event

7:50 pm Done

8:00 pm Done Done

Meeting Location:

NOTE: The downtown event is being held at a new location.

711 Atlantic Ave.
Boston, MA  02110

Workbar Atlantic Ave is right down the street from the MBTA Red & Silver Lines (South Station stop).  It is also just a short walk from the Orange Line (Chinatown or Downtown Crossing stops) and the Green Line (Boylston or Park Street stops).



Putting User Stories into business value order is a key tenet of Agile, but that’s just the first step. There’s much more value to be extracted from your user stories using specific story splitting techniques combined with reducing cycle time. By splitting user stories you can separate the gold from the dirt as well as reduce the cost of implementation.

This session will cover a variety of methods for splitting user stories including the split by “create/read/update/delete” method, the split by acceptance test method, and the split by value method. These techniques can produce even more value when combined with frequent grooming and Kanban flow which will also be covered.


About The Presenter:

Damon Poole is Chief Agilist in Eliassen Group’s Agile practice. His 22 years of software experience spans from small collocated teams all the way up global development organizations with hundreds of teams. He writes frequently on the topic of Agile development, is the author of the web book “Do It Yourself Agile,” and a pioneer in the area of Multistage Continuous Integration and mixing Scrum and Kanban. Damon has spoken at numerous conferences including Agile and Beyond 2010-2012, Agile Business Conference, Q-Con, Agile 2008-2012, and Agile Development Practices. He is also a co-founder and past CEO and CTO of AccuRev where he created multiple award winning products including AccuRev and AccuWorkflow.



Pondview Corporate Center
74 Batterson Park Rd., #100
Farmington, CT 06032

Need driving directions? Click here for directions


Tuesday evening, April 02 2013 from 6:30PM to 8:30PM


Register HERE:


Meeting Agenda:

6:30 pm Introduction

7:00 pm Food, beverages, and socializing

7:20 pm Main event

8:20 pm Done

8:30 pm Done Done


Meeting Location:

74 Batterson Park Rd, Farmington CT 06032 (Directions)

NOTE: The event room is located on the 1st floor. Enter the building. Take the hallway then go left. The door to the event room is on your right.


Register HERE:


Agile Coaching and Sports

Question: why do sport teams employ coaches past training camp? Aren’t the athletes professionals capable of their own learning?

This is a question I received recently when I explained that ’embedded” or “integrated” coaching (where a Agile coach is present 5 days a week for 3 months or more) is probably a very bad idea. For those of you new to the idea that embedded or “integrated” coaching might not exactly be good for team-learning, take a look at these links:

Embedded Agile Coaching Defined

Agile Coaching Values

So, why do sport teams employ coaches past training camp?

Aren’t the athletes professionals capable of their own learning?

In my view it is absurd to compare the role of say, a Division1 basketball coach, to an Agile coach. The roles have little if any overlap. For example, is an Agile coach duly authorized to define various team rules, like a pro sports coach is? Is it ever OK for an Agile coach to yell at a team member like a college basketball coach might yell?

It is hard to imagine a scenario where that would be healthy in any Agile coaching context. The role of Agile coach has far less authority than a sports coach. This is self-evident.

Or is it? “Embedded” or “integrated” coaching, where the Agile coach is present every single day, positions the coach as “the authority”.

Is this healthy or even useful?

Is embedding a Agile coach full-time …in an organization ….simply trading one kind of authority-related dysfunction for another?


Agile Coaching Five Days a Week, FULLTIME for Three months or More: In Service to What?

Agile Coaches are familiar with the patterns of naive and vulnerable client organizations that are new to Agile. In my view, Agile Coaching pros have an obligation to help clients understand what is best for them. This always includes helping the client take 100% responsibility for their own learning. This usually means the coach must refuse opportunities to play a larger role.

Being there, 5 days a week, full time, for 3 months or more can be lucrative and hard to resist. As coaching professionals, we do our best (and live up to our potential) by serving the learning of the client organization. This includes challenging the client org to take 100% responsibility to reach a self-sustaining state of Agility, without the need for an external coach.

Stating that pro and college coaches play a big role after training camp and that therefore, Agile coaches can do the same is at best misguided. At issue is authority. In sports, the coach is authorized to substantially define the team by defining and enforcing rules. (Example: Examine the book Wooden On Leadership .)

After some basic training, is it EVER right for an Agile coach to define team rules? No. Teams must define their own rules– and culture. Agile coaches have far less authority than pro or D1 sports coaches, many of whom can choose to rule autocratically. Would you want your Agile coach acting that way? I hope not!

Coaches that overstay and “embed” or “integrate” into team life (usually as the ongoing Scrum Master)  are in a position to reduce team learning. This happens when the team does not learn to answer it’s own questions, does not try enough experiments,  and does not engage in enough risky learning.

The following table enumerates some key differences between two roles: pro sports coach, and Agile coach. As you can see, it is an apples-to-oranges compare:

Coach & Team Characteristic: Sports Teams IT Teams Notes
Coach has authority to define rules and therefore define the culture X The best sports team coaches DEFINE the culture of the team. See Wooden On Leadership for details
Coach has total authority to reward and sanction behavior X
Coach has broad influence over who has membership on the team, and who plays X
Coach typically defines basic team rules and enforces them X
Coach specifies the practices and has ultimate authority on how practice and practices are selected and executed X
Coach is typically compensated in part based on team performance X Agile coaches get paid not matter what. IN sports, if your team underperforms,  you are GONE
As a norm, Team defines their own intentional culture based on shared values which may be explained and suggested by coach X It’s absurd to imagine any Agile coach defining and then enforcing a team’s cultural norms
As a norm, Team works from principles typically suggested by coach, that support & express underlying values X
As a norm, Team has opportunity to change practices periodically based on retrospection X Self-governing teams define who they practice and how they execute. This is at best extremely rare in pro & college sports.
Team can mature to the point of no longer needing a coach; a “watcher” or Facilitator or Scrum Master can announce what is happening and stop short of issuing guidance like a coach X
Team’s goal is results as measured by specific progress (wins, frequent delivery etc X X


As we can see, in terms of authority, the pro sports coach has near-absolute authority to do the work of defining the rules and influence overall team culture.

In authority terms, these two jobs are not comparable, even though they both use the term ‘coach’ in the job description.

Who Is Ultimately Responsible for the Team’s Learning ?

Teams are. Teams are responsible for learning continuously. No one can do it for them.

Software teams must  take 100% responsibility for the culture design of their own team, and for their own team learning. That’s hard to do when an Agile-authority figure, installed by management, is present 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, functioning as an authority figure, telling the team at every turn what it “should” do. Particularly when the ‘coach’ takes up the Scrum Master role for more than a few weeks, the presence of a fulltime coach crowds the team and discourages team initiative and engagement.

Sports coaches and Agile coaches similar? Yes. But- when an Agile coaches take up too much authority, the results are predictable: reduced team learning, reduced engagement, greatly reduced self-organization,  and suboptimal productivity. For this reason, Agile coaches must look for every opportunity to increase the learning of the organization as a whole, with strong intent to vacate or otherwise evolve the current coaching role as soon as possible. It’s hard to do that when present 5 days a week, for 12 or more weeks while also often occupying the pivotal Scrum Master role.

A far better pattern is to teach a new Scrum Master, one who is internal to the coached organization, and for the external Agile coach to be present on a part-time basis. This places responsibility for learning and improvement on the coached organization itself, which is where it belongs. This is a healthy pattern that encourages healthy and authentic Agile adoptions.