Agile Culture: Management and Transparency

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This is a blog series about the impacts of an Agile implementation for management.  We have already discussed trust  and teamwork, and this post is dedicated to transparency.

Transparency for the Team

People that move into Agile (or Scrum) team typically experience a dramatic increase in their involvement in the business.  They have access to more information and they are participants in conversations that would have excluded them in the past.   The team members now see more of the Product Vision or Roadmap than they ever have before.  They probably have a task board where they can see which tasks are in which state.  They should be having a Daily Stand-Up meeting where the team learns if anything is standing in the way of progress for their development effort.  They are now included in conversations about scope and timing and release planning.  Thus, from the team member’s perspective, transparency has increased exponentially.

This is not necessarily true for management.  When you have a team that you trust and that is working together, the transparency for management might actually decrease in some ways.  As a manager or Director, you will no longer know everything that is happening on your teams in an Agile environment for two main reasons.  (1) You trust the teams to work together to deliver so you no longer micro-manage them and (2) Because of the trust and teamwork, more things are happening than ever before and it is much harder – and unnecessary – to stay on top of everything.

Transparency when you trust

As we discussed in the previous blog on teamwork, when management truly embraces Agile, the ‘command and control’ way of managing becomes a thing of the past.  This same concept also impacts transparency.  When you trust the team, you won’t have to know everything that is going on. Let’s consider an example in the workplace.

A Director runs into a manager in the hallway and asks who we are sending to a local conference.  The manager does not know the answer.  The Command and Control manager might panic and respond by telling the director “I will find out right away.”  Then he goes to his team member and says “I need an immediate response of who is going to the conference.  And I need to be kept better informed on these types of matters.”  It is clear to the team member that the manager is annoyed that he didn’t have the answer to the Director’s question right at his fingertips.  The team member feels chastised.

The Agile manager responds quite differently.  When asked the same question by the Director, the Agile manager responds “We put Julie in charge of that.  She was looking into schedules and making sure we had representation from a good cross-section of IT.  I will ask her to shoot us both an e-mail with who has confirmed.”  Then the manager asks Julie “Can you send me and the Director the current list of attendees for the local conference?  Thanks so much for your leadership on this.”  Now Julie feels valued and empowered.  She is responsible for coordinating the attendees and merely needs to send an update e-mail.

Transparency and Control

Agile values transparency because we trust our development teams to be professional stewards of corporate information in ways we may not have in the ‘command and control’ regimes.  We recently worked with a company that had set a launch date of March 1st for a new product.  In early February, it was obvious that the delivery date was unrealistic.  There had been problems in setting up the environment for integrated testing and the automated deployment process was still experiencing significant problems.  The management team got together and decided to push the delivery date out to March 20th, but they didn’t tell the team because they wanted them to “keep pushing” towards the now fictitious delivery date.

Think about that through the eyes of a committed and intelligent developer.  How insulting.  This management practice implies that the developer wouldn’t work as hard if they knew they had three more weeks; that management needs to ‘trick’ him to keep him focused.  In an Agile environment, smart people are working hard all of the time.  And they are entitled to the best and most accurate information so they can make the best and most accurate decisions about how to deliver the desired business value.  Attempts to control the flow of information are in direct conflict with the transparency that makes Agile so special and so effective.

If you are still working in a Command and Control environment, please set your teams free.  Let them manage their work load, own the projects and tasks that they have committed to and show them your respect by keeping them fully informed of what is happening.  It is the Agile way, and it is the best way.

To learn more, please reference the book Change, Inc.: An Agile Fable of Transformation available on


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