The fundamental misunderstanding of agile Management

The new way of organizing and working according to lightweight and flow-oriented principles has led to a rethinking in many organizations and in many individuals. However, there are still some misconceptions, especially with the term “agile management”.

Many believe that leadership and management should only take the form of support, enabling and coaching. Thus writes the german FAZ in the article “language in the office: Unwoven of the year” that  Agile Managers are only allowed to support. (sorry, only available in german language)

But also the advocates of the new management culture, such as Simon Sinek, one of my favorite speakers, sees only supporters in the New Work Manager.

Also, some of the agile framework consultants for large organizations have expressed the opinion that middle management can be significantly streamlined by introducing agility. In my opinion, they are not only wrong, but also create fears in middle managers, fears about their jobs and their careers.

Scrum and the P4 framework have three roles that are clearly separated in their area of ​​responsibility:

  • The Product Owner, with his strong market and business responsibility,
  • the Scrum Master, with his supporting, moderating responsibility, who also takes care of the work environment and infrastructure, and
  • the Working Team, which is responsible for the implementation and the “incorporation of quality”, as well as his own team processes.

All three roles have a significant management share. That’s why I call it the “Trinity of Agile Management”. The same roles can also be found in the P4 framework at “higher” levels: the system / cluster level for multiple teams and the portfolio level for multiple team clusters.

Yes, the Scrum masters are supporters, that’s right. But the Product Owners are innovators, leaders and visionaries. And those responsible for technology, who are called System Engineers and Portfolio Architects in the P4 framework, are also designers and innovators.

Therefore, even in a fully agile organization, there will still be plenty of room for management positions, advancement opportunities and careers. However, one has to pt ​​for one of the three clearly defined areas of responsibility, which I personally see as a great advantage.

Read more about the Organizational Model of Knowledge Work here.

{Photo by @danielmingookkim on}

One thought to “The fundamental misunderstanding of agile Management”

  1. Question from Jonatan: Oliver, what about the commonalities and differences between project and people management? I considered agile practices mainly for the first area, so far. Would be interesting to think about what “agile people development” could be

    Answer: Using Scrum only in projects doesn’t unleash the real power, especially when each person is alocated to multiple projects and therefore is only partly involved in each project. (See for more about that.)
    For product creating companies, I love the concept of using Agility and Scrum for the entire organization, where product development work is assinged to (and flows through) stable teams and NOT by assigning part of the capacity of people to new projects. Since those “scaled agile” organizations don’t need an extra project organization (like Project Leaders and a PMO), also the roles of managers differ. In that case, the Scrum Master really becomes a mangement role!
    To the second part of your question: Agile people development would be part of the Scrum Masters role, in terms of soft skills and the System Architect (in the P4 Framework) for the technical part. Most organizations also introduce Communities of Practice for additional knowlege building.

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