Is there such a thing? Is this a misnomer? Is there a need for managers in agile teams? I don’t think there is a simple answer to this one, and coming from an agile development background, I have since converted to be a development manager. What does that mean exactly? There is no hard and fast definition of what a dev manager is, but I think there is a need for someone who comes from a development background and understands the real issues that development teams face – many PMs that I have worked with simply don’t understand the problems. Obviously, these job titles are simply labels, but they do carry baggage and assumptions with them.
So, what do I do as a development manager? Well, firstly, I try to act as a communication bridge as much as is possible, and like it or not, there is definitely a gap here within most teams. Often development, business teams, and leaders don’t communicate enough – probably for seemingly valid reasons, but this communication is crucial to the success of a company. Business leaders don’t understand (and niether would I expect them to) how complex software development is, so it’s the responsibility of people like me to work with them and help them understand all about value and prioritization. Of great importance to me is also vision and custmer assignment on a project, without these key pieces in place, developers feel like they are in the dark, they want to know they are building a ’cathedral’.
Most of all, the development team manager must remain humble and remember that they are there to facilitate great team working – you are only as good as your team. My goal is to have my team reach its full potential, and currently, I consider myself priviledged to be working with a very talented team. Its early days for me, and I am far from where I want myself and my team to be, but I am excited about the future and know that I can create a fun and safe atmosphere within which team members can excel.
Of course, there is an irony here, the longer I am away from the harsh realities of the coal face of software development, the more I forget about how tough it is to deliver something. So, its my goal to work on home projects, where possible with friends to keep me ‘honest’ but I see it as an almost impossible conundrum. Its almost as if I would like to work for a little time as a manager and then get back to development for a time and so on.
I do believe however, that there is a valid role for a manager. If nothing else, to remove the pressure on the team from outside influences to allow them to do the right thing without fear – thus getting the best and most creative talent to reveal itself in the team members.