Disciplined Agile

Promises by Leadership and Management

This page discusses the promises made by leadership and management. Although all roles make these promises, how each role keeps them is often different because of their responsibilities and level of authority. Click here to see all of the promises that comprise the guardrails.


Promise: Create psychological safety

Leadership must demand that all managers create safe environments for their staff. Lean-Agile cannot be implemented well in an environment of fear. Managers often need training in how to do their jobs more as coaches and creators of effective environments than via command and control. Leadership must insist that they learn how to do this while providing the necessary training and coaching required.

Management must shift from a command and control method of working to one of using visual controls so that they can focus on the work being done. The attitude needs to be that we trust our people but don’t trust our system. Visual controls must be used so that discussions can take place about the work and how it should be done and not on the individuals doing the work.

Leadership / Management checklist

  • Have leaders and managers been trained, or at least introduced, to the tenets of lean-management?
  • Do we have the proper visual controls so that leaders and managers at all levels can talk about the work and not the individuals doing the work?

Promise: Accelerate value realization

Leadership must define what this value is. While other stakeholders may actually work out the details the vision and direction is up to leadership.

Management must create a method in which this vision can be made visible throughout the organization.

Leadership / Management checklist

  • Is everyone clear in the organization what is of greatest value to be working on?

Promise: Collaborate proactively

Leadership must provide the time necessary for people to understand what is needed. They must also not capriciously change directions or interrupt technology. They must realize that doing so has an adverse impact on them.

Management must create an eco-system in the organization which enables collaboration across the enterprise.

“A system must be managed. It will not manage itself. Left to themselves, components become selfish, competitive, independent profit centers, and thus destroy the system … The secret is cooperation between components toward the aim of the organization.” – Edwards Deming

Leadership / Management checklist

  • Are incentives in place to encourage collaboration or are individuals and teams measured on only the work they do.


Promise: Make all work and workflow visible

The best way to create visibility is with the use of Visual Controls. People in different roles need to see what work is being done by other roles that will affect them. This is one tenet of DevOps.

Leadership must enable people to work in an environment where people can see each other’s work. When problems come up they should help resolve them, not beat people up for having them.

Management must support the creation of visual controls. While the particular controls should be left to the people doing the work, the capabilities of what the controls should be decided by management so that visibility is achieved across the organization.

Leadership / Management checklist

  • Can you see what’s happening in the organization?
  • Are people afraid to tell you? If so, you must remedy that.


Promise: Increase predictability

While we can’t predict everything there are a lot of ways to decrease unpredictability. Many of these are technical in nature, such as decreasing tech-debt and automating testing. But many of them are process related. Unpredictability sometimes just happens which is why feedback loops are important. But there are many root causes of unpredictability and these must be addressed if sustainability of the organization is to be enhanced.

Leadership / Management checklist

  • What are the greatest causes of unpredictability in your organization?
  • How are you causing this?
  • What are you not allowing other roles to do that could improve predictability?


Promise: Keep workloads within capacity

A common problem with development organizations is being overloaded with work. This occurs in several ways:

  • Having work pushed on them
  • Not leaving any room for maintenance items which are sure to come up
  • Starting too many project
  • Not having a focus on finishing
  • Interrupting teams

Leadership should not demand more from technology than they are able to do. Working beyond capacity makes teams less effective, less efficient and is not sustainable.

Management must provide a way for everyone to see the workload across the organization.

Leadership / Management checklist

  • Ask the team about what is causing them to be overloaded? How much of it is self-induced? How much of it comes from the outside?
  • Don’t overload teams with work. Allow them to pull work when they have capacity.
  • Keep interruptions to a minimum. Recognize that an interruption creates additional work in addition to delaying something that was already decided to be the most valuable.


Promise: Improve Continuously

You are either improving or you are declining. Both leadership and management must do what they can to encourage people to improve.

Leadership / Management checklist

  • Are you allocating funding and capacity for learning throughout the organization?
  • Are you removing impediments to learning?