#59 – The Agile Line Manager

Authors’ Comments:

Many articles have been written about the role of the line manager in an agile setup, but Tina Hjort Ejlertsen and Helle Gundorph with PA Consulting recently broke it down into several areas, some of which we list below.

As line managers in a waterfall setup are potentially used to prioritizing the work of their employees, have a big network and domain knowledge, moving into a role of Product Owner can be a beneficial move for all parties.

Another view is helping facilitate Quality Assurance. Though the agile organization might have dedicated QA specialists or diffused the competencies into the teams, doing the needed change management to ensure that QA activities are built-in to the process instead of only doing it near the end of a delivery/project is something the line manager could help drive.

An existing part of a traditional line management role is ensuring the continuous competency development of people. Though this, in a “pure” agile setup, the Scrum Masters typically facilitate that this happens in the teams, having (knowledgeable) line managers build and drive Communities of Practice across teams and departments is a way of leveraging on their existing competency building skills.

Also, In the transitional phase of moving from traditional recruitment happening by line managers into it being done by the teams themselves, line managers could help the organization or Agile Release Train build these recruiting and onboarding skills by providing their competencies and skills to the teams in a non-authoritative way. 

Finally, the line manager could take on the role of a so-called “career angel”, whose task it is to coach and spar with the agile colleagues on long-term career goals, the need for continuous adaptation, learning and development of skills, and developing the responsibility in their current roles.