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As I sat down with John, a new Agile leader, I could tell he was feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. “I just don’t know if I’m cut out for this,” he said, running a hand through his hair. “I thought I was ready for the challenge of leading an Agile team, but it’s harder than I expected.”

I asked John to tell me more about what was going on. He explained that he was used to being a more traditional leader, where he gave his team clear instructions and expected them to follow them without question. But now, as an Agile leader, he was struggling to let go of that control and empower his team to make their own decisions. He was also struggling to communicate effectively with his team and was finding it hard to keep track of everything that was going on.

I could see that John was making some common mistakes that new Agile leaders often make. He was treating his team as if they were still following a traditional, hierarchical structure, instead of truly empowering them to take ownership of their work. He was also struggling with clear communication, which is essential in an Agile environment.

I suggested a few solutions for John to try, based on the principles of good Agile leadership and mission command.

First, I recommended that he focus on building trust with his team. Trust is the foundation of an Agile team, and it’s essential that the team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns with each other and with their leader. John could build trust by being transparent with his team, sharing information, listening to their feedback and collaborating in solving tricky problems.

Second, I suggested that John try implementing some Agile practices to help with communication and keeping track of everything that was going on. For example, he could participate in daily Scrums or stand-up meetings, where the team shares updates and discusses any roadblocks. He could also use visual management tools, like Kanban boards or burndown charts, to keep track of the team’s progress and ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals. He could also use OKR’s as a framework for sharing goals, overal outcomes and the teams place in achieving them.

Finally, I reminded John that as an Agile leader, his role is to provide the team with a clear intent, rather than micromanaging their work. He should focus on communicating the purpose and desired outcome of the project or mission, and trust his team to use their expertise and judgement to achieve that goal in their own way.

By the end of our conversation, I could see that John was feeling more confident and inspired to try these new strategies. “Thank you,” he said. “I feel like I have a better understanding of what I need to do now. I know it won’t be easy, but I’m excited to give it my best shot.

The problems with Command and Control

Most leaders are taught to direct their teams through a Command and Control approach. However, Command and control management styles hinder rapid decision making and leaders adopting this approach can find themselves micro managing their teams to ensure their orders are followed. Ideally leaders want self organising teams that can navigate their own path to success. Leaders only need to step in to handle challenges. Command and Control Management can prevent teams from becoming self-organizing in a few different ways:

  1. Lack of autonomy: In a command and control environment, team members are typically expected to follow strict orders and adhere to pre-defined procedures. This can leave little room for team members to use their own judgement or creativity, which can prevent them from developing the necessary skills and experience to become self-organizing.
  2. Limited communication: In a command and control environment, communication is typically one-way, with leaders giving orders and team members following them. This can create a culture where team members are hesitant to share their ideas or feedback, which can prevent them from collaborating effectively and developing the trust and shared understanding necessary for self-organization.
  3. Slow decision-making: In a command and control environment, decision-making is often centralized, with leaders making all the important decisions. This can lead to slow decision-making and a lack of responsiveness to changing circumstances, which can prevent the team from adapting and self-organizing effectively.

A command and control management style is characterized by a hierarchical organizational structure where decision-making power is centralized at the top of the organization, with leaders giving specific instructions and closely monitoring the performance of their subordinates.

This management style can also have significant impacts on the leader using it. Some potential impacts of a command and control management style on the leader include:

  1. Increased stress: The leader may feel responsible for making all decisions and ensuring that subordinates are following instructions, which can lead to high levels of stress and pressure.
  2. Limited creativity: A command and control management style can stifle creativity and innovation among subordinates, as they may not feel empowered to suggest new ideas or take risks.
  3. Limited development of subordinates: This management style can limit the development of subordinates, as they may not be given opportunities to develop their skills or take on new challenges.
  4. Limited collaboration: A command and control management style can limit collaboration among subordinates, as they may be discouraged from working together or sharing ideas.
  5. Reduced trust and respect: The use of this management style can lead to a lack of trust and respect between the leader and subordinates, as subordinates may feel micromanaged or undervalued.

Agile leadership and Mission Command

In contrast, an Agile leadership style with mission command principles empowers teams to become self-organizing by giving them the autonomy, communication channels, and decision-making power necessary to collaborate and adapt effectively. This approach allows team members to take ownership of their work, make decisions that support the overall mission, and communicate effectively with each other and with leadership. As a result, teams can become more self-organizing, creative, and responsive to change.

Mission Command is a leadership philosophy that emphasizes the importance of empowering subordinates to make decisions and take initiative in pursuit of a shared goal. It is a style of leadership that is commonly associated with military operations, but it has also been adopted in various other contexts, including business and government.

In the military, Mission Command is characterized by a commander’s intent, which provides guidance and a clear understanding of the desired outcome, while leaving room for subordinates to adapt to changing circumstances and exercise initiative. The idea is that by empowering subordinates to make decisions, the organization can be more agile and responsive to rapidly changing situations.

Agile leadership is a leadership philosophy that shares some similarities with Mission Command. Like Mission Command, agile leadership emphasizes the importance of empowering subordinates to make decisions and take initiative. However, agile leadership is typically associated with more dynamic and fast-paced environments, such as software development, where rapid iterations and responsiveness to customer feedback are essential.

Agile leadership is characterized by a focus on collaboration, experimentation, and continuous improvement. Like Mission Command, agile leadership emphasizes the importance of setting a clear vision and providing guidance, while allowing subordinates to exercise autonomy and adapt to changing circumstances. Both Mission Command and agile leadership prioritize flexibility and adaptability over rigid control and micromanagement.

At its core, agile leadership is centered on empowering teams and individuals to work autonomously while providing them with the resources and support they need to achieve their goals. Agile leaders encourage an environment of trust, respect, and open communication, where everyone is encouraged to contribute their ideas and work collaboratively towards a shared vision.

Some key characteristics of agile leadership include:

  1. Flexibility and Adaptability: Agile leaders are able to quickly respond to changes in the business environment and adjust their strategies and plans accordingly.
  2. Empowerment: Agile leaders trust their team members to make decisions and take ownership of their work, providing them with the autonomy and resources they need to succeed.
  3. Continuous Improvement: Agile leaders are focused on continuous learning and improvement, encouraging experimentation and feedback as a means to drive innovation.
  4. Collaboration: Agile leaders value collaboration and teamwork, recognizing that diverse perspectives and ideas lead to better outcomes.
  5. Customer-Centricity: Agile leaders prioritize the needs of the customer, seeking to understand their preferences and behaviors to deliver products and services that meet their needs.

Overall, agile leadership is a management style that values adaptability, collaboration, and continuous improvement, empowering teams and individuals to achieve their full potential while driving innovation and growth.

Mission Command and Agile Leadership share many similarities, as both prioritize empowering subordinates to make decisions and adapt to changing circumstances. However, agile leadership is typically associated with more dynamic and fast-paced environments, while Mission Command is often associated with military operations and other contexts where a clear chain of command and a more deliberate decision-making process may be necessary.

Mission Command Mistakes

Leaders who are new to Mission Command may make several mistakes as they try to implement this leadership philosophy.

  1. Failing to clearly communicate the commander’s intent: The commander’s intent is a critical component of Mission Command, as it provides guidance and direction to subordinates. Leaders new to Mission Command may not be used to communicating their intent clearly, which can lead to confusion and misalignment among subordinates.
  2. Micromanaging: Leaders who are new to Mission Command may struggle to let go of control and may be tempted to micromanage their subordinates. This can undermine the autonomy and decision-making ability of subordinates, which is a core tenet of Mission Command.
  3. Failing to delegate responsibility: Delegation is a crucial aspect of Mission Command, as it enables subordinates to take ownership of their tasks and make decisions accordingly. Leaders who are new to Mission Command may struggle to delegate responsibility effectively, which can lead to a lack of initiative and accountability among subordinates.
  4. Not providing adequate training and support: Subordinates need to be trained and supported to make decisions effectively under Mission Command. Leaders who are new to Mission Command may fail to provide adequate training and support, which can leave subordinates feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to proceed.
  5. Failing to adapt to changing circumstances: Mission Command is all about adapting to changing circumstances and making decisions accordingly. Leaders who are new to Mission Command may struggle to adjust their plans and decisions when unexpected situations arise, which can lead to missed opportunities or costly mistakes.

Overall, leaders who are new to Mission Command must be mindful of these potential mistakes and work to overcome them through effective communication, delegation, training, and adaptation.

Agile Leadership Mistakes

Agile leadership is a leadership philosophy that emphasizes adaptability, collaboration, and continuous improvement. While this approach can be highly effective, agile leaders may still make some common mistakes. Here are some examples of mistakes that agile leaders may make:

  1. Focusing too much on short-term goals: Agile leaders often prioritize short-term goals and rapid iterations. However, they may sometimes become too focused on immediate results and lose sight of longer-term objectives.
  2. Neglecting to set clear expectations: Agile leadership often involves a collaborative and flexible approach to decision-making. However, this can sometimes lead to a lack of clarity regarding expectations and accountability.
  3. Failing to communicate effectively: Agile leadership relies heavily on communication and collaboration. Leaders who do not communicate effectively may find it difficult to maintain alignment among team members.
  4. Overlooking individual needs: Agile leaders often focus on the team as a whole and may overlook the individual needs and development of team members. This can lead to burnout, turnover, and a lack of motivation.
  5. Resisting change: Agile leaders must be willing to embrace change and continuously improve their approach. Leaders who are resistant to change may become stagnant and lose their competitive edge.
  6. Trying to do too much at once: Agile leaders often have a bias for action and may try to tackle too many tasks simultaneously. This can lead to burnout, missed deadlines, and a lack of focus on critical priorities.

Overall, agile leaders must be mindful of these potential mistakes and work to overcome them by focusing on effective communication, setting clear expectations, prioritizing the needs of team members, embracing change, and maintaining a focus on critical priorities.

How to Overcome the nervousness related to Agile Leadership

It is not uncommon for leaders to feel nervous when adopting a new leadership approach. Here are some strategies that an agile leader can use to overcome nervousness related to agile leadership:

  • Educate yourself: Learn as much as you can about agile leadership and its principles. This will help you understand the benefits of the approach and give you the confidence to apply it effectively. Also learn about various Agile Frameworks so you can understand how teams work in an Agile environment.
  • Build a support network: Seek out other agile leaders or mentors who can provide guidance and support. This can help you overcome nervousness by providing you with a sounding board for ideas and helping you navigate any challenges that arise.
  • Start small: Agile leadership can be overwhelming if you try to implement it across your entire organization at once. Start with a small team or pilot project to test the waters and build confidence in your skills before scaling up.
  • Communicate transparently: Communication is key in agile leadership, and being transparent with your team about your goals, expectations, and progress can help build trust.
  • Embrace failure: Agile leadership encourages experimentation and learning from failure. Recognize that not everything will go as planned, and be prepared to adjust your approach based on what you learn.
  • Stay flexible: Agility requires flexibility and adaptability. Be prepared to adjust your plans as new information becomes available or circumstances change.

By adopting these strategies, an agile leader can build confidence and overcome nervousness related to agile leadership. Remember that the most successful leaders are often those who are willing to take risks and try new approaches, so be bold and embrace the benefits that agile leadership can bring to your organization.

Learn with Fractal Systems

Looking to upskill and boost your career prospects in the world of agile methodology? Look no further than Fractal Systems‘ Agile Training!

Our team of real-world practitioners are active in the industry, so you can trust that the techniques you learn are tried and tested in real-life situations. Our training isn’t just a lecture-based session filled with boring PowerPoint slides – we know that interactive, discussion-based learning is the best way to ensure you retain what you’ve learned and are ready to apply it in your work.

Our Agile Training is not only informative, but also enjoyable and fun! We believe that training shouldn’t be a chore, but an opportunity to develop new skills and meet like-minded professionals. Our sessions are designed to be fully interactive, with plenty of opportunities for discussion, group activities, and hands-on exercises.

By completing our Agile Training, you’ll gain valuable insights into the latest agile trends and techniques, and be equipped with the skills and knowledge to apply them in your own workplace. Our team is dedicated to ensuring you get the most out of your training experience, and we’ll be with you every step of the way.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to develop your career and enhance your skills. Sign up for Fractal Systems’ Agile Training today!

Further Agile Scrum Training

 Online Professional Scrum Master Training I (PSMI)

 Online Professional Scrum Master Training II (PSMII)

 Online Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO)

 Professional Scrum Product Owner Advanced (PSPO-A)

 Applying Professional Scrum (APS)