CHOW #268 – Who do you support?

You are an agile coach working with a group of middle managers as part of an enterprise transformation effort. There are coaches at senior leadership level up in the hierarchy and lower in the scrum team level.

Middle managers are going about the transformation effort sincerely and they are feeling stretched to meet the deadlines. In the meantime, there is push from the senior leadership level coach to bring in a few process changes including restructure of the product backlog and there is a deadline to complete the changes. Middle managers are pushing back.

What would be your position as the coach of the middle managers? Who would you support?

Suggested solution

This is a tricky one and as usual it depends on the context. When we step back and reflect, we can see that the source of the conflict is deadlines in a transformation effort. Often transformation does take time and depends on the ability of the organization to absorb change.

First step for the coach here is to stay away from the politics and make a fair assessment of the situation. Two considerations are: How big is the change that is asked for? How stretched are the middle managers and teams already?

In this case, middle managers are sincere and already stretched. Quantum of change in terms of backlog restructure is likely to be high. It is the responsibility of the coach to highlight the challenges in implementing the changes suggested by the senior leadership coach. It would come across as you are supporting the middle managers. There is a likely perception that coach has become part of the resistance! But so be it. You need to be genuine and your self-awareness is your best guide there. It would also be appropriate to guide the middle managers to talk to their senior leadership about these changes. These changes may be important for their goals and therefore middle managers may choose to stretch harder!

What do you think?

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