Manager Transition

Manager Transition

Stable Teams


To support and lead Stable Teams, managers must make the shift from a traditional environment of managing for results to creating environments for success.

A real challenge is that many managers are so used to being in the day-to-day details and managing the work level that this shift might be difficult, if not impossible, for some. It makes sense to put managers in the role that fits them best. So find for them a work management-related role such as Program Manager, Solution Lead, Architect, Systems/Business Advisor, etc. and grow the managers who are passionate about developing people into the resource manager role.

Making the Shift

Traditional Management

  • Formal structures that are difficult to change
  • Power is in hierarchical positions of authority
  • Information is owned and guarded
  • Activities are measured
  • Contractual relationships

Agile Management

  • Flexible and adaptive structures
  • Power is in self-organizing teams
  • Information is openly shared
  • Outcomes are measured
  • Commitment-based relationships

What Teams Need from Managers


  • On vision and measures
  • On backlog and business value
  • On priority/rank


  • Allow them to finish what they started within their sprint
  • New ideas/deliverables go into the next sprint/quarter
  • Keep team members together
  • Stop/reduce multitasking
  • Reduce duplicate updates/status reports


  • Provide space to innovate and try new ideas
  • Eliminate fear of making mistakes
  • Share the vision and acceptance criteria, allow the team to self-organize around the “how”

Engage and Help:

  • Engage with the teams, attend their demos and ceremonies
  • Help them with impediments that they cannot solve as a team
  • Celebrate success, show appreciation, provide constructive feedback when needed

People Development:

  • Provide coaching and mentoring to help team members develop new skills
  • Support training opportunities
  • Grow new leaders in the organization

The Challenge for Managers

It’s well known that most managers are promoted to higher positions because of their specialized skills and their ability to solve problems well. Basically they were high-performing individual contributors (or at least we hope so).

The interesting part here is most new managers attempt to show their team members how to solve these problems by describing how they did it. This makes sense because they’ve done their jobs before and learned lessons doing so. The challenge now is that the real value of a leader is his/her ability to coach others on how to solve problems themselves. This means setting a clear vision, defining acceptance criteria and letting them figure out the ‘how.’ Yes, some gentle nudging is used, especially when a team or individual is new, but some level of mistakes are tolerated and even anticipated. This also means learning to ‘trust’ that your team can self-organize and figure out how to achieve the goals. This idea of creating self-organizing teams is the hardest to grasp for managers who are used to directing at a detailed level what each person on the team does.

Work Management and Fire Fighting

This is now managed by the ScrumMaster and the cross-functional team. This is a hard shift for many managers who spend almost all their time managing tasks, getting statuses, redirecting what people were working on, and responding to the daily fires and impediments.

Subject Matter Expert

Every agile team has Solution Leads who are technical or Business Leads who are subject matter experts advising the team and who can translate the business vision into a technical vision. They work as part of the team (dedicated or shared) to provide guidance and direction when needed, in addition to mentor and transfer knowledge to those who want to grow.

People Development

This still remains the focus for managers with a bigger emphasis now than before on the individual coaching aspect. To be honest, most managers were so consumed on managing the work that many of them have had no time to develop their people or learn the critical skills of coaching others. Many teams have put up with various behavioral dysfunctions because managers have been too busy or not skilled enough to deliver behavioral coaching with individuals or teams.

Process Improvement

Again, this is another area that many times gets neglected because of the focus on work management and fire fighting. Agile advocates creating Communities of Practice (CoPs), where people can come together and share knowledge, develop standards, identify and resolve impediments, select and learn tools, and help each other within a specific functional or focus area. Managers can be great leaders for these CoPs and can help bring people together to improve the processes for their teams and at the enterprise level.

Usually team members allocate time each week to attend these CoP meetings, which should be working sessions that deliver real value. In addition to the functional CoPs, managers are now creating a CoP for managers, where they work together as a team on related ‘Process Improvement’ backlogs.

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