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Agile for Managers

Watch Alex Cowan to learn about agile for managers.
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In the last video, we talked about what Agile is, where it came from, and we talked about why it’s important. Here, we’re going to look at what does it mean to the individuals on a team. And that’s important, because you probably are in one of these roles, so you can start to learn about what it might mean for you. But part of your success with Agile is going to be about interdisciplinary collaboration. So it’s important to also understand what it means to all the different roles that you’re going to work with. Let’s start with these manager roles. The project manager is typically a central figure in any software or IT project, and we’ll call her Paula in this case.
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Paula is traditionally going to be measured on the timeliness and the amount of content that she delivers, and Agile will absolutely help her do that. It’s extremely practical, and it is a good project management methodology. But it’s about a lot more than that. We’re also going to help Paula learn how to create valuable outcomes. So she may be sick and tired of delivering projects on time that then go out into the world or get in front of users and achieve a bad outcome. So we’re going to help her learn how to establish project charters with management that make room for valuable outcomes. Now Paula may not have a lot of experience working with the design process and designers.
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And the idea of using that in a project, and the ambiguity it creates, might justifiably make Paula a little bit uncomfortable. But Paula’s going to learn enough so that she’s able to engage with the design teams. And not just designers, but she’s able to use tools from product design on an everyday basis to work with sales and support people who are interacting with customers and learning about them every single day. And she’s going to learn how to talk to engineering and QA and the implementation teams in the language of what’s valuable to the user. And we’re going to make this accessible to her.
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Now, the project manager may be telling her, hey, we need to go out and do more research about users, learn more. And that’s pretty hard to accommodate in a project if it’s ambiguous what that’s going to mean. We’re going to give Paula tools, through design sprints, so that she knows exactly how to go out and identify what needs to be done, put it in a time box, and make sure that she’s getting valuable results at the end. Whose importance she can explain to executives and everyone else on the team. Well, let’s take a look at the product manager. We’ll call him Pascal. His hobbies are fishing and carving things into trees. And Pascal want’s to innovate.
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He want’s to build a breakthrough product that everybody loves. And yet, he feels like he’s always overwhelmed by prioritized features, and requests from customers, and that he goes home every night feeling like he did just enough to keep things rolling. And, look, that’s fine. A lot of us feel that way. But we’re going to give Pascal the tools to work on the design process on an everyday basis so it’s not this big, ambiguous thing that has to happen for things to be better. It’s something he can integrate into his everyday work with the project people, with the implementation team. I’ll give you an example of just one little thing we’ll help Pascal do.
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There’s a classic problem where software isn’t usability-tested enough. And often it’s because of this circular loop of, well, we can’t test it until it’s done, and then, once it’s done, we have to release it anyway. Well, we’ll help Pascal learn how to work with the implementation team to build prototypes and structure really facile, easy-to-use test plans so that they’re getting in front of useability issues. And not constantly getting whacked in the behind by them. So here we’ve talked about what this means for managers. Again, it really has to do with how everybody interacts with each other and their ability to use some of these common frameworks.
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To talk about value and to make time for each other, to do things right in a way that drives to valuable outcomes. And in the next video, we’ll look at what that means for the specialist that you see over in the right hand-side of this diagram.
Alex discusses in this video what agile means to the role of a manager, and the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration.
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Getting Started with Agile and Design Thinking

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