What is the Role of the Project Manager on an Agile Project?


What is the Role of the Project Manager on an Agile Project?


The most common question I get asked related to roles on agile teams is around what becomes of the traditional role of the project manager or the business analyst.

The question comes up because agile projects have only three roles: the Scrum Master, the product owner and the development team member.

In this post, I will focus on the project manager role and its evolution in relation to agile projects. 

The Project Manager: How Do You Fit into an Agile Team?

As teams began to adopt and transition to an agile software development environment, and as it became more popular and mainstream, the Project Management Institute (PMI), Project Management Association of Canada (PMAC) and other organizations around the world created the agile project manager role and introduced a career path for professionals transitioning to agile projects.

On some agile teams, the agile project manager is referred to as a Scrum Master. If you've ever wondered how different the roles are of a Scrum Master and agile project manager to the traditional project manager role, let's look at that now.

  • Authority: The traditional project manager role moves from a command-and-control, hierarchical position to a servant-leader or facilitator position. This is the essential role of the Scrum Master.

  • Requirements: The responsibility of ensuring the requirements are defined and providing direction for the product and services being delivered move from the project manager to the product owner. The product owner assumes the responsibility for ensuring the requirements are defined, prioritized and ready for the team. This is achieved iteratively, through just-in-time planning and progressive elaboration of requirements.
  • Work Assignments: Assigning work and getting the status of the work completed moves from the project manager to the team members. The rationale behind this is that the agile team is a self-organized group of highly skilled professionals, accountable for the work they commit to in a sprint. The team takes ownership and accountability for meeting the project and team goals.

  • Managing Stakeholder Expectations: Providing the project status to stakeholders and sponsors moves from the project manager to the product owner, since it is the product owner who provides direction and leadership to the team, so that they can build the right thing and deliver business value based on priority and ROI.

  • Leadership and Support: The Scrum Master serves the product owner and the team so that they are better able to do their jobs by assisting them, facilitating creativity and fostering empowerment. The goal is to allow the team to self-organize and become a mature high-performing team. This is a change to a servant-leadership model.

  • Removes Impediments: If the agile development team is unable to resolve issues within the team, for example external dependencies and challenges that are out of the team’s immediate control, the Scrum Master helps remove obstacles and support the team.

To be successful in this transformation, the project manager needs to take on the role of a Scrum Master to become the champion of the Scrum process and facilitate the team’s adoption of Scrum with the understanding that they have no authority over the Scrum team. If this is a role you are considering, you will need to not only adapt and transition your skills, but also move towards an agile culture that embraces agile values. 



 

Dananthi is the agile coach for a large financial organization, where she helps teams transition to an agile project management framework.

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