In a conversation about how a lot of part-time workers vs a few full-time workers can affect a team, my tech friend recently asked me: “Are managers a relic of the past or are they absolutely essential?” Both, I answered.

A manager as we know them is usually our boss. Someone that holds the superior power and the superior responsibility and organizes, controls, administers an organization or a group. That, I argued, is indeed unnecessary and will become less and less practiced.

In that model, a manager is not telling people what to do anymore but merely facilitates the work and is an equal unit of them.

But it doesn’t mean that we don’t need managers at all. On the contrary! As the structures flatten, and responsibility spreads to more nodes, more meta work (organizing, communication, planning, synchronizing, etc. – as opposed to development work) will emerge and we need people who specialize in those areas to keep our collaboration smooth and goals on target.

A great example of that is the transition from traditional project management to self-organization. Scrum moves away from someone telling the team what to do and towards a doocratic model of the responsibility in an area belonging with those who actually perform the tasks in that area. In that model, a manager is not telling people what to do anymore but merely facilitates the work and is an equal unit of them.

Seems obvious? It should be. But still, often I see hierarchical legacies of the structures built up within an organization – or even psychological legacies of operating within hierarchical structures – interfering with the very foundation of scrum processes limiting the flexibility of the participants and having a plethora of negative consequences for the individuals, the team, and the products.

I strongly believe in driving the change even if it doesn’t seem to be your direct responsibility.

So what can you do as a member of a confused team? I strongly believe in driving the change even if it doesn’t seem to be your direct responsibility (the more it doesn’t, the more you should!). Don’t just focus on writing the code. Go learn a little about project management, product management, and different ways of organizing teams. Start having those conversations with your colleagues and your managers. Maybe they too can become more of facilitators than bosses. You have the power to shape your environment, use it.