Solving Workload Imbalances in Agile IT Teams


Mario, one of my colleagues working as an agile coach, is currently consulting a mid to large-size company. The C-Level recently committed to a more “agile way” of working and doing business in the future. There have already been multiple workshops with the management team and you can feel a confident “new drive”. There have been talks about more self-organization and that the role of a classic manager will need to change in the next years; you have probably already heard all those arguments which makes sense from my perspective.

The department that Mario is supporting is working in the IT division of the company and consists of 3 relatively small teams. There is a manager per team and the team members are between 6 to 9 people. Each unit is responsible for the IT part of a certain business process of the company and is working independently or is getting orders from the Customer division of the company.

In short, we’re facing here a classic split by “Customer”, and “IT” stuff with a lot of potential to optimize when we think of value chains and how the employees cooperate and work towards achieving goals towards maximum impact for the organization.

Already for some years one of those three teams has much more workload than the others and faces issues with prioritization of the work to be done. Also, the unit starts to get tired since there are also a lot of production issues. Furthermore, the current team leader of the unit is a “top-shot” in the company. He knows every business process, has been working there for 17 years, and is well respected. Since pressure went up, he mostly stepped in during delicate times and is often the “problem solver” as well as the communicator. In short: He’s compensating a lot of the current issues in this system.

After several meetings, the company finally realized that it had to do something, and the solution was… tataaa…. add another Manager! It’s dead simple: Let’s split the team of 9 people and add another manager and the situation will be better soon….

As you can imagine, Mario did advise against it with the following arguments:

  • You are not even thinking about the main issue!
    • The reason why?
    • The mid to long-term goal of how the organization wants to work
    • Did you talk to the key-players first? Customers, the unit
  • Rather than just increasing management how about stepping through the value chain and let’s experience other ways? Maybe we can cooperate or even better, consolidate some units from business and IT to have a kind of “BizDevOps” team?
  • You are not addressing a management issue. The “top shot” is absolutely a nice guy and a key player but should rather delegate tasks than do it by himself. Bring him more in a kind of “People Manager” and encourage and challenge your employees. Otherwise, he’s not in the right position.
  • In general: You already have a lot of “mini-teams” with a lot of management so here we’re going in a wrong way. Imagine the signal in the complete company? (I mean to be honest, adding another member to the team would also not be the right solution for me but still way better than another boss)

Wonder what you would have done.

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