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Ask Mr. Agile®: How does a functional manager contribute to an agile organization?

Interviewer: How does a functional manager contribute to an agile organization?

Mr. Agile®'s Answer: Many times, if you're a functional manager and you move into an agile model, it's really going to benefit you. The reason why is your sphere of influence is going to dramatically increase. Let's say that I was a functional manager and I was in charge of the QA department, and I had 20 people who reported up to me. Historically, my sphere of influence was 20 people--even if there were 500 people in a development organization, my sphere of influence was 20 people.

But, under an agile approach if we had 500 people in our development organization, I need 500 of them being able to contribute in some way to the QA effort. So, now my job as a functional manager is going to change a little bit now. Now I'm going do things like lunch-and-learns. Wel'l leverage those 20 QA people to be able to build templates and other things that allow people that aren't so deep in QA to be able to contribute to the QA effort. My role will change; my sphere of influence will increase.

If I'm not going to be running a guild, then many times what we'll do is we'll use those functional managers to help implement the outcomes from the agile transition team. And so they'll really act as an "antibody" working to remove the status quo so that the teams that are running agile processes can run them in the fastest, most unfettered way possible. They're really almost acting as an organizational scrum master, if you will, because they've got the clout to be able to do that.