Many Agile practitioners scoff at the very idea of managers in the context of Agile teams. However, they are often a necessity of existing companies. So, we should do the most to have them contribute and align with team members. This exercise give an avenue for honest, detailed feedback from the team to their manager.
This game is recommended only for teams with high trust with their manager.
Timing: 20-30 minutes preparation; 60 minutes execution
Pens, blank index cards
- Meet with the team’s manager ahead of time. Have him write out several (3-5) strengths and several (3-5) areas of improvement in the context of them being this team’s manager. It would be good for the manager to provide you some context for these items.
- Prepare two copies of each card.
- Start the retrospective with the manager out of the room. Shuffle and layout the cards and have the team split them up into strengths and areas of improvements. Team members can add more cards, if they see a gap. Have them discuss the placement of the cards citing specific examples.
- Once everyone is comfortable with the split, invite the manager. Layout a second copy of the cards – splitting the way the manager originally did so.
- 5. Discuss any differences. Have the team and manager talk about how the strengths help the team and what the team would like to see improved.
This exercise provides a framework to first show, whether the manager’s self-appraisal mirrors the appraisal of their team. It allows the manager to prioritize their areas of improvement with a focus of being a better manager for their team.
If the trust can be extended to the manager’s superior, you can also bring them into the game. Prepare a third set of cards and hand them to the manager’s superior prior to the retrospective and have them split the cards into strengths and weaknesses. After the team does the split, but before inviting the manager, invite their superior into the retrospective and have them layout the cards. After a brief discussion, invite the manager.
This alternate way gives the manager a more rounded view. It also provides material for discussion with their superior about their development.