Hiring Managers for Agile Teams

(I originally posted this on my MSDN blog.)

Someone asked a question along the lines of, “Let’s say you were hiring senior managers for a group made up of multiple agile teams.  What qualities would you look for in an interview?”

The very first thing I’d look for would be a strong understanding of and belief in agile principles and philosophy.  There are a lot of people out there who say, “Yeah, sure, agile’s great!” but they panic and revert to non-agile strategies when the going gets tough.  Does the candidate deeply understand not just how agile works mechanically, but why it works and the factors that can help or hinder success in that model?  Do they know how to fix it when it breaks?

The absolute worst thing you can have when in a difficult situation is a senior manager who doesn’t truly trust agile and knee-jerks back to traditional methods when the risks get high (which of course is precisely when traditional methods don’t work).  A thrashing manager can absolutely destroy even a strong agile team.

I guess I could drill down into specific beliefs and name things like support for self-directed teams, a passion for delivering real value rather than just sticking to a pre-determined plan, and a willingness to blur traditional role lines (dev, test, PM) in the interest of a cohesive team.

Of course, many of the usual things like the ability to hire and grow quality people, real-world experience with shipping software, a strategic understanding of the business environment, etc, are still critical.  That stuff doesn’t go away.


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