Top Down versus Agile Management

In Forbes Magazine online, Andrew Filev looked at comparing agile management methods to the top down approach. He believes that a leader must evolve as a company grows and matures. Filev's specialty is entrepreneurship, productivity in business, and the future of work. He always looks at the various work methods and approaches with an eye toward increasing productivity and its benefits to the advancement of the company. Below, we summarize Filev's theses for you.
Brunette woman wearing glasses smiles at the camera. In the background are people working.

A question of leadership style

Andrew Filev writes that for many leaders, finding the right leadership style for their workforce is a major challenge. Thousands of articles in print and online point out that the agile approach is the unanimously true and promising one, while the top-down approach, which was the standard for many decades, is a thing of the past. Andrew Filev was one of the first to implement agile methods and remains an enthusiastic supporter of agile today. Still, he insists that both approaches have their time and place in the workplace. As companies evolve and grow, the leadership style must evolve with them to motivate the talent in the company, enable efficient teams to work together, and thus achieve the company's goals.

The first phase of a new company

A startup will find it easy in the early stages to implement agile methods and give individual teams a high level of self-determination so that set goals can be achieved quickly. One of the reasons for this is that new startups are made up of significantly fewer staff. The people involved are usually young and motivated. With each sprint completed, there is an opportunity to measure the effects and make a strategic decision based on that. Together it is decided what to focus on in the coming week. In those first hours of a company, it's really fun to be the boss, says Andrew Filev. Work is done quickly and results are easily visible. In this exciting phase, priorities are sometimes changed monthly, depending on what's happening in the market.

Organizing growth

Growth, however, requires a different kind of organization. Filev points out that it can sometimes be difficult to manage growth. But when a company grows to a hundred or even several hundred employees, management must grow and adapt with it. A different level of organization is now required. Here, a really strong leadership is needed that defines a company strategy and goals from the top down. Quality goals and their achievement by the various teams are also the responsibility of the leadership. Here Filev recommends introducing something top down into agile management. He stresses that this is not a departure from the agile approach. The teams that do the actual work retain their independence and self-determination. This allows them to continue to deliver the best results. Strategy decisions, however, are made at the executive level, according to Filev. This combination of agile and top-down leadership is Filev's recipe for success for companies that have grown to a certain size.

Transparency in agile management

For Andrew Filev, the key to tailored and mature agile management is transparency. In particular, bottom-up transparency is meant here. All decisions made by management must always be based on what is going on at the "front" right now. This, of course, requires accurate information from the individual teams. Ten or so years ago, it was almost impossible to achieve such transparency. Today, thanks to modern networking and integration tools, things are different. With a few simple clicks, management can always get up-to-the-minute insights into what is happening at the project level. Similarly, middle management needs insights into the priorities of higher management. Only in this way can teams work in a goal-oriented manner. A balance must be struck between leadership and freedom. If the leadership structure is too loose, teams may end up working in the wrong direction. So everyone in the company needs to have a rough idea of where the journey is going. At the same time, there must be sufficient freedom for creative work.

Leadership as a guiding element

One of the problems with agile management is that the cost-benefit ratio does not depend on the ability of a single team. Even projects that seem small involve multiple teams and stakeholders who must juggle priorities and solicit feedback from multiple directions.  Filev reiterates the importance of different teams keeping each other informed of their work to align progress and build on each other. Real-time communication is one of the most important keywords. Here, good leadership from the top can provide the decisive impetus and skillfully coordinate the teams. In this way, according to Andrew Filev, the top-down approach and agile management can be combined to create an ideal company structure. He is convinced that the combination is the best way to survive in the business world as a startup on its way to becoming a growing company and to plan ahead for this growth on the one hand and to make it as fruitful as possible on the other. Customers will also appreciate this. Transparency and predictability are very important factors for customers.
Author: IAPM internal

Key words: Agile project management, Project management, Corporate development

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