Monday, October 5, 2009

The Agile manager is a master programmer

Lean thinking by Toyota says that managers must go and experience at the real place of work (gemba in Japanese) to learn what is going on. In the manufacturing field, gemba means the shop floor. When trying to apply Lean Thinking into my Agile management style, I feel like uploading the codebase from the repository into my computer and looking at the code; or even going further, I should be pairing with the programmers in my team.

The “real place” in software development is the crafting of the software. Therefore the Agile managers should be master programmers who can craft the code, and apply the development practices.

Of course not every master programmer will make a good Agile manager; and, on the other hand, not every traditional manager will make a good Agile manager. Either one will have to master several complementary skills that will empower a good Agile manager.

I have seen great traditional manager became great Agile managers, and great programmers became great Agile managers too. In both cases, the winner (the new Agile manager) did not stand alone. The whole team benefits at the end.

The manager who is new to Agile is to be empowered by the Agile team. And the programmer who is new to Agile is to be empowered by the team, including the Agile manager. Empower the team. Really. Don’t forget to empower the new-to-agile-manager. Please invite your manager to (once in a while) craft the software with you.


awkwardcoder said...

'go and experience at the real place of work (gemba in Japanese) to learn what is going on.'

doesn't mean a manager has to become a 'master programmer' - what ever that means...

Paulo Caroli said...

‘Go and experience at the real place of work’ means people—especially managers—are expected to “go see with their own eyes” (from the Toyota Way book) rather than sit behind their desks. And according to Lean thinking, to know what is really going on and help improve it, managers should frequently go to the place of real work and see and understand for themselves. To understand for themselves, they have to know the craft very well. So for SW development managers, the code practices (the craft) is the place of work, therefore they should be master programmers (someone that is experienced in SW development practices).

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