The key principles for Middle managers in Agile environments: Trust over control
By Cliff de Laat
One of the key principles for Middle managers in Agile environments is choosing to focus on trust over control. In my personal experience I have seen Middle managers offering a lot of space and trust in which people are really empowered to be their best self at work. The complete opposite, I have also seen Middle managers trying to control every situation. Not allowing any room for failure or growing of the talents of the team.
Our Middle managers are caught between a rock and a hard place. Targets from their bosses and the teams struggling to deliver on their challenges. It is not easy but nobody ever said it was easy. It requires some bravery but I believe this is one of the key-principles to get the right results. This principle acknowledges the need to empower teams, foster collaboration, and encourage autonomy, while also providing the necessary guidance and oversight to ensure alignment with organizational goals and objectives.
1. Trust as the Foundation: Trust is the cornerstone of Agile environments. Middle managers should trust their teams to make informed decisions, take ownership of their work, and deliver value. By enforcing an environment of trust, Middle managers enable teams to self-organize and become more innovative, motivated, and productive. Trust empowers individuals and promotes a culture of accountability, where team members are encouraged to take risks and learn from their experiences.
2. Empowerment through Autonomy: Middle managers should empower teams by granting them autonomy. This means allowing teams to have control over their work processes, task allocation, and decision-making. Empowered teams are more likely to take ownership of their work, collaborate effectively, and find creative solutions to problems. Middle managers should provide support and resources while avoiding unnecessary micromanagement. This enables teams to adapt quickly to changing requirements and improves their overall performance.
3. Balance with Necessary Control: While trust and autonomy are essential, Middle managers also need to maintain a certain level of control to ensure alignment with organizational goals. They should establish well-defined boundaries and guidelines, ensuring that teams operate within the agreed-upon frameworks. This includes periodic check-ins, progress reviews, and monitoring of key metrics to ensure that projects are on track. However, control should be exercised in a way that doesn’t stifle creativity or hinder the agility of teams.
We look at our principles in the same manner as the Agile manifesto. Although we value the items on the right (Control) we value the items on the left more (Trust).