Short Course: Agile Manager

Duration: 90 minutes
Attendees: Individual contributors, managers and servant leaders who want to promote sustainable agility

To sustain rapid adaptation and innovation, we need good agile managers. Agile sustainability depends on management agility. But management talent is rare, and agile management talent even rarer. Five agile base patterns characterize every agile individual, team, project and organization. These patterns help us rapidly sense, adapt and create to meet chaotic markets. How can we use these patterns to assess and promote agile management skills in our bosses, our peers and ourselves?

Some nihilists say we should “kill all the managers,” but that has succeeded primarily to alienate managers, or worse, has created dysfunctional teams building unsupported products that earn little value.

Agile sustainability depends completely on management agility. If you’ve got an agile executive, your agile transformation will stick. If you’ve got a good executive who doesn’t understand agile, it probably won’t. That isn’t hopeless: we can teach good executives and managers to be agile. But, if no executives have innate managerial talent, it is hopeless: mediocrity is guaranteed and coaching won’t help

Agile managers adopt five agile base patterns for themselves: they measure economic progress,adaptively experiment to improve, limit work-in-processpromote collective responsibility, and solve systemic problems. It turns out these patterns have analogues in good (non-agile) manager talents. That’s a relief, because we can focus agile manager training on extending the talents good managers already have.

In this workshop, we’ll explore agile manager characteristics, and management dysfunctions. We’ll create approaches to move good general managers to good agile managers. We’ll explore strategies for dealing with mediocre managers, whether they are peers or superiors. And we’ll learn how to improve our own management agility.

Session Structure

  • High-Talent Managers
    • What are the five characteristics of high-talent managers?
    • Should we promote, develop or bench existing managers?
    • Exercise:
      • Assess managers we know (anonymously, of course).
      • Categorize and brainstorm ideas for improvement
  • Five Agile Base Patterns
    • Are you, your team, your manager, and your organization “are sustainably agile”?
    • Exercise(at a table):
      • Self-assess for individual agility
      • Brainstorm ways to improve individual agility
  • Strategy Scrum Teams
    • Can we apply Scrum to common management projects?
    • Why should managers be doing anything other than impediment removal and fighting fires?
    • How can we help them?
  • Change the Organization
    • Kotter Organizational Change Model
    • Exercise (at a table):
      • Pick a particular situation, and construct a plan to improve manager agility

Learning Outcome

Attendees will learn to

  • identify high-talent, teachable and low-talent managers, using Gallup High-Talent Manager research, and understand how to develop and achieve success for them and the organization
  • assess the agility of individuals, teams, managers and organizations, using Agile Base Patterns
  • assess our own agility and construct a game-plan to improve ourselves
  • introduce Strategy Scrum into management projects, to improve success and sustainability
  • change organizations using the Kotter Organizational Change model, specifically in this area of agile manager development


Develop Agile Managers, or Agile Dies

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