Managing the Unmanageable: If You Are Agile, What Do Managers Do?


Speaker: Ron Lichty, Principal & Owner of Ron Lichty Consulting, Inc.
Meeting Date: Thursday, October 3, 2019
Time: 6:00 pm Networking; 6:30 pm Management Forum/Guided Networking;
7:00 pm sandwich dinner; 7:30 pm Presentation
Early-Bird: $12 IEEE members, $15 non-members; At the Door: $20
Location: National Instruments, 4600 Patrick Henry Drive, Santa Clara, CA
Directions: click map at right

Management Forum / Guided Networking: Bring Your Management Challenge;
Arrive by 6:30 PM to join this exciting Management Forum. Following informal
networking is a guided discussion typically related to the topic of the evening’s
after dinner talk, or of general Technology Management interest.
Light Dinner: This month we’re continuing with our light dinner format
— typically sandwiches, salad, drinks, and cookie or similar light dinner.


Managing the Unmanageable: If You Are Agile, What Do Managers Do? slides PDF
A common misconception about agile is that managers are unnecessary. After all, agile is based on self-organizing teams. If the teams organize themselves, what do managers do?

Unfortunately, most scrum training plays into that. Think about it: how many trainers or coaches have you seen sketch the structure of a scrum team with a drawing that includes a manager? While there’s always a scrum master and a product owner, the core team and maybe some stakeholders, have you ever seen a manager in that drawing?

This misconception can be a problem all around: A frequently cited barrier to agile adoption is managers who don’t know what to do when their teams become self-managing. When they’re not included in training, how would they (or anyone else, for that matter) know how to characterize their role. At the same time, organizations often lay down expectations of managers, some compatible with agile, some not.

Agile has shifted the old roles and responsibilities. Organizations truly embracing Scrum no longer make managers responsible for delivery. Managers bent on command-and-control are clearly a barrier to agile adoption. But managers who take a hands-off approach or think their roles are just H.R. will almost certainly stymie adoption, as well.

Ron Lichty, who advises business leaders how to make their software development “hum”, believes that managers have critical roles to play in enabling agile success. So do a lot of the early agile thought leaders. This talk is about manager roles and about success.

Speaker Bio:
Ron Lichty has been managing software development and product organizations for over 25 years, almost all of those spent untangling the knots in software development and transforming chaos to clarity, the last 20 of those in the era of Agile. Originally a programmer, he earned several patents and wrote two popular programming books before being hired into his first management role by Apple Computer, which nurtured his managerial growth in both development and product management roles. From Apple, he grew his engineering management career to director and VP engineering roles.

For the last six years principal and owner of Ron Lichty Consulting, Inc. (, he coaches business and product and engineering leaders in untangling the knots in their software development, on occasion takes on interim VP engineering roles, and trains teams and executives in agile. In his continued search for effective best practices, Ron co-authors the periodic Study of Product Team Performance ( He co-chairs the Silicon Valley Engineering Leadership Community.

Ron’s most recent book is Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams – – published by Addison Wesley, and compared by reviewers to software development classics The Mythical Man-Month and Peopleware.