Voices THE AGILE PROJECT MANAGER
Jesse Fewell, CST, PMI-ACP, PMP, has served on the core
team of the Software Extension to the PMBOK® Guide
and the steering committee for the PMI-ACP® certifica-
tion. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the end
of the day,
of a project
value is not
in what we
do, but in
what we fix.
During a recent conference a project manager asked me, “We have a scrum master, a product owner and a coach. So where do I fit in?” She’s not the only
With the rising popularity of agile methods, we
see more self-organizing teams and specialized
roles creeping into project managers’ responsibilities. This raises a question: What does the modern
project manager actually do?
Let’s acknowledge the silver lining here first.
At organizations that cut costs by understaffing
project teams, the project manager was somehow
supposed to deliver a successful project anyway,
usually by taking on extra work. With the shift to
agile methods, more people are expected to take
on more of the load, allowing project managers to
focus on adding value.
That said, the elephant in the room remains:
How do we add value to projects when the team
(or sponsor) believes they no longer need us? Here
are three tips.
FIND THE BIGGEST PROBLEM
Every project has conflict or missed expectations.
Our job is to prevent, minimize and fix those
problems. This is called Pareto analysis: find the
project area causing the most pain, and fix it first.
For example, perhaps you’re a strong technician
working with great talent but suffer from poor
business sponsors. In that case, you should delegate your natural technical decisions and instead
fill the duties of an agile product owner role.
DIVERSIFY YOUR SKILLS
Once you identify where the project needs the most
help, you might discover you don’t have the right
skills. For example, many people move into project
management from a technical background and never
learned how to make a business case.
This is why PMI created the Talent Triangle™,
comprising technical skills, strategic and business
skills, and leadership skills. The emerging industry
expectation is that project managers can hold
their own in all three areas. Take the time to fill
gaps in your knowledge.
Several years ago, I explained to a department vice
president my ideas for changing the organization’s
structure to improve team output. He was not happy,
saying, “That’s not your job—you are a tech lead.”
At the end of the day, the source of a project
manager’s value is not in what we do, but in
what we fix. Invest your energy where the need is
greatest, even if that means stepping outside your
comfort zone. PM
Do agile projects even need a project manager?
By Jesse Fewell, CS T, PMI-ACP, PMP, Contributing Editor