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Agile Management—An Oxymoron?

Thursday, 30 October – 8:30-10:00

Lougie Anderson (Chair), Sabrix, Inc., lougie@sabrix.com
Glen Alleman, CH2M Hill, glen.alleman@rfets.gov
Kent Beck, Three Rivers Institute, kent@threeriversinstitute.com
Joe Blotner, Sabrix, Inc., joeb@sabrix.com
Ward Cunningham, Cunningham & Cunningham, ward@c2.com
Mary Poppendieck, Poppendieck, LLC, mary@poppendieck.com
Rebecca Wirfs-Brock, Wirfs-Brock Associates, rebecca@wirfs-brock.com

"Self-directed team" is one of the mantras of Agile Methodologies. Self-direction means that the team's manager is relegated to a facilitator role with little or no influence over day-to-day activities. For example, Kent Beck has written that the manager of an XP project can do four things: ask for estimates on cost and results, move people around among projects, ask for status reports, and cancel the project. Agile literature in general says that managers shouldn't be directly involved in analysis, design, coding, testing or integration. They may (but only occasionally!) facilitate the process between the customer and the developers; and it would be nice if they provided food and toys to keep the team happy. It appears, then, that the agile manger is expected to hover on the fringes of a project asking a few questions and throwing in goodies—but with ultimate power (cancellation) in her hip pocket. This scenario makes one wonder. Do managers really matter to the success of an agile project? Are they superfluous? What happens when managers step over the prescribed line—does it mean that the end of Agile Methodology as we know it and as handed down by the Agile Manifesto? The panel will explore this ticklish terrain by answering the following questions: Why Agile Methods and managers don't mix. Or do they? What can/should managers do in an agile environment? Under what conditions are managers an absolute requirement in an agile environment? (e.g. Government applications?) Do good management techniques apply to both Agile and non-Agile environments? Is management a dead-end profession in an Agile world?