Functional Managers in Agile

As an organization transforms to an agile way of working, functional managers (e.g. a dev manager or a test manager) can feel lost. Many of their traditional responsibilities move to other roles or disappear altogether.

How can functional managers continue to add value in an agile organization? Here are a few ideas…

  1. Build a community of practice for the function across multiple agile teams. This allows lessons learned by the testers on one team to spread to testers on the others. It makes it more natural for developers on one team to seek help from developers on another.
  2. Provide training and other skill development opportunities and resources across teams.
  3. Take a strategic view on the function. Look across multiple teams’ product road maps and evaluate how well the current skills and knowledge match future needs. Take steps to fix any gaps (i.e. through training, hiring, etc.).
  4. Help team members, HR, etc. align functional, team, and organizational measurements, goals, etc. For example, agile teams often see the best results when team members are willing to work across specialties as needed. But traditional metrics and goals might penalize a developer for helping with testing. Functional managers can help break down these disincentives to collaboration.
  5. Continue to take care of personnel responsibilities such as performance reviews, hiring, and firing. However, because functional managers are likely to have less direct, day-to-day interaction with employees, they need more input from Scrum team members to do these than they might have in the past.

Last updated