If you are reading this article, the chances are that your company started adopting Agile or that it’s at least looking into it. It also means that you have some understanding of how difficult it can be to adopt Agile and especially how to placate managers who often feel like they have the most to lose as your company becomes Agile.
This is why providing Agile training for managers is not just a matter of educating your employees. It is also an exercise in openness and tact.
Why managers fear Agile
Before we move any further, we should point out that not all managers fear Agile and that many of them are actually quite happy to take part in introducing Agile to their companies.
That being said, there is a certain mistrust that managers almost instinctively feel towards agile.
For one, the majority of them has had to weather all kinds of projects, stakeholders and team members and they honestly feel like Agile is not the best solution for all those problems. This is quite understandable considering the experiences most managers have had over the course of their careers.
In addition to this, Agile, both on paper and in practice, emphasizes the importance of self-organized and self-managed teams. When the team becomes self-managed, there is really no need for managers, right?
Some managers may also have previous experience with various faux-Agile adoptions that ended up in total chaos and wasted resources.
In rare cases, some less-than-spectacular managers fear that Agile might actually illuminate certain problems that they previously managed to hide from the rest of the organization.
Where to start
The worst thing your company (or any company for that matter) can do when trying to become Agile is to simply decide to do it, send a few memos and then start implementing various Agile practices.
This is pretty much a surefire way for your Agile adoption to go sideways, regardless of how big your company is or how much money and effort you are willing to spend on it.
The first thing to do is to discuss the potential agile adoption or transformation with the people in your company. They need to be aware that the company is planning to do so and they should be provided with enough knowledge about why this is happening and how it might affect them.
This is doubly important for people who fill the managerial positions in your company, both for the fears we covered in the previous section and also because they will need to play an active role in spearheading agile in the company.
You have to discuss how their position may or may not change, how the way they work might change and how they can benefit from it. Don’t gloss over potential problems. Discuss those as well. Find out what they think.
More probable than not, they will become interested and they will want to learn more.
Only then should you start thinking about providing agile training for your managers.
Consider different resources
The most common way for companies to provide agile training for their employees, especially larger companies, is to hire an outside agile consulting company that will send over a coach or two to provide the training.
This can work, there is no doubt about that. There are some great agile consulting companies out there and they have been known to do amazing work. However, you need to be careful because there are also many such companies that go through motions and look only for the quick sale. As around, talk to people from other companies. Do your research.
There are also many online courses and workshops that can go a long way towards introducing your managers to agile. They will range from agile basics to agile project management and different approaches, such as Scrum, Kanban or Lean.
In many parts of the world, you will also find various Agile organizations and Meetup groups that can provide additional knowledge to your managers and help them understand what Agile can do for them and their position in the company.
Another option is to go from inside. Depending on the size of your company and the industry you are in, the chances are that you have someone familiar with Agile. They can provide training for your managers, at least the initial one where they get familiarized with the basics. This is a great option because people from within will know your company’s structure, its inner workings, its problems and what Agile can do to help.
The essential thing is to approach the training of your managers in a truly Agile fashion - insist on transparency, inspect how much value this training is providing to your managers and, if you think it’s warranted, adapt to the situation. Also, keep in mind that some of your managers do not exactly have to become Agile program management experts and that some familiarity will do.
Also, do not be taken aback if you discover some harmful patterns within your company as you start providing training.
Agile is really good at that.