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Micromanagement in an agile environment. Is it possible?

The biggest nightmare of an agile team is a micromanager.

This type of a manager does not necessarily mean the person is bad. They are nice and funny and smart and hardworking and think that everything has to be double-checked.

Everything has to be double-checked.

Every document has to be prepared ahead of time and sent for verification. They read the text very carefully and fix the structure, meaning, order and punctuation. they send you the highlighted results back and ask to correct all the comments.

There are no licenses purchased, new tools installed, processes changed and subcontractors approved until the plans are presented, justified and assured to have no better alternatives. Every such approval usually involves going back for additional homework. In some cases, people tend to artificially fit the results with the requirements in order to get past the verification.

“The life is too short”, they say, “and there’s no room for mistakes”.

The problem is – the price of hunting for mistakes is often higher than the risks themselves.

Does it sound familiar?

While it seems to be good, and an additional pair of eyes does not make any harm, everything changes when a team goes agile.

Let’s take a look at the principles of the Agile Manifesto:

“The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.”

That means that in agile environments managers are not gatekeepers but enablers.

“You are not above us. You are a part of the team. While my responsibility is writing a quality code, yours is making sure I have everything needed to achieve the goal. Architecture, tools, approvals, documentation, funding – these are in your hands.”, once a member of a team told me.

She is completely right.
A perfectly tuned team does not need a manager. A good team needs a mentor, probably, that would guide through the key principles. A good team, most likely, would need an agile evangelist to make sure the wheel is not invented anew.

A good team

  • Runs things in parallel
  • Makes mistakes, acknowledges them, thinks about ways to avoid problems, takes actions
  • Allows every person to be responsible for decisions

A micromanager

  • Requires things to be synchronized
  • Does not accept mistakes, does not take responsibility for failures, increases pressure if failures happen
  • Keeps everybody within strict boundaries of responsibilities

The whole idea of agile contradicts management the way we are used to seeing it.


  • Destroys motivation
  • Kills initiative
  • Adds overhead on any assignment
  • Increases cost of ownership
  • Questions trust

A good team does not need management. A good team needs clear goals.

“People don’t need to be managed, they need to be unleashed.” (Richard Florida)

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