Is There a Role for a Project Manager on Agile Projects?

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By Dan Tousignant, PMP, PMI-ACP, PSM I, CSP

Dan is a lifelong project manager and trainer with extensive experience in managing software development projects………

 


Picture4Are you a Project Manager in an Agency or Organization moving to Agile? Is there a role for you?

The typical Agile answer to most yes or no questions is “it depends.” (but my answer  in this case is a resounding, YES!)

Whether you work for the Federal Government or for private industry, you are probably wondering or even struggling with what your role will be as your organization moves to an Agile or Scrum environment. The Scrum purists are ardently against the idea of a project manager. They are in favor of a Scrum Master without any “command and control” bad habits, and yet the huge number of project managers applying for the PMI-ACPsmcertification would have you believe that project managers are actively involved in Agile.

I should note, that I am not a Scrum purist.  My experience with Scrum is from the early days. I was hired in the Spring of 2000 as a project manager over a Scrum project. One of the founding fathers of the Agile Manifesto had just implemented Scrum at a large organization that was trying to rapidly deploy their web presence.  I was a relatively new PMP, and I was asked to manage a software development team that had already begun using a Scrum methodology. Yes, its true, a project manager using Scrum – oh the horror of it all!

I can only tell you based on my personal experience since then, I have never had trouble finding work as a project manager on Agile Projects. The only caveat, and this is where I completely align with the Agile community, is project managers should not be telling people what to do, they should be facilitating.

As a project manager on Agile projects I have been successful in the role of Scrum Master and Product Owner. Both of those roles require similar competencies as the project manager role in a non-Agile environment.

I never give up my title of project manager, because I believe my training and experience as a project manager are what makes me effective in either of these roles. As a consultant, I have always understood the need to modify my role for a particular client or project and Agile projects are no different. Agilistas love the term, “Adapt or Die”, I think this holds true for project managers as well.  Our industry is constantly changing, and we have to be flexible and change with it, but we don’t have to give up being a project manager, we just have to know which of our many hats that we need to wear when working on an Agile project.