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My Company is Adopting Agile. Are My Days as a PM Numbered?

Written by  Nelson Bodnarchuk | 28 September 2011
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Agile PMSo your company has decided to go agile. Congratulations! If you're a PM that is currently part of a PMO that is transitioning from a more traditional Waterfall methodology to an agile framework you may be wondering what you’ll be doing with all that extra time now that you don’t have to write anything down, what steps can you take to keep utter chaos from devouring those self-organizing teams, or how you will justify your role with the company now that your new PO is going to hold most of the discussion with the client and team around the product development and requirements. Are you feeling that your days are numbered now that the PM role, at face value, looks obsolete?

Don’t worry too much about the typical anxiety that comes along with change, especially with one as big as a move towards becoming agile. The role of a PM in an agile environment requires a slightly different focus; however at the core a PM will add loads of value to an agile team, if said PM is willing to adopt agile quickly, promote the heck out of it and focus on why agile was created in the first place … increasing ROI.

Yes the more a PM looks at the idea of agile the more that PM may wonder, what the heck am I going to do with all this free time? Well for starters, in my experience, you won’t have much free time at the beginning or near the end of a project, as is usually the case no matter what type of methodology you’re following. It’s also important to restate that agile is more of a shift in mindset more than anything else. Some of the shifts in focus include:

  • Focusing more on facilitating Planning sessions with the team, client included
  • Increasing the level of understanding around what the team is building that sprint
  • Holding the PO accountable to produce complete stories with clear acceptance criteria
  • Ensuring the team has safety to speak candidly
  • Remove any barriers to the team’s success
  • Stick to the cadence if you’re sprints are every 4 weeks hold the team to those 4 weeks…change the scope not the time frame
  • Ensure uninterrupted time is given to the development team to code, design, build tests etc… I aim for minimum of 6 Hrs a day, 4 days a week, of pure uninterrupted and focused development time
  • Empower the team with the deliverables schedule, communicate what needs to be delivered and when, the rest is up to them
  • Be accessible to help when coordination is required between development and 3rd parties
  • Ensure that the development team has the necessary tools to complete their work, from Design to QA to final release, one of your top priorities on a daily basis is to ensure road blocks and impedances are removed from the teams’ path to achieving their goal
  • Lead the team and organization from front to ensure the 4 Forces of Enterprise Agile shapes up if you are in an enterprise

Do any of these look familiar, if they do great! Most of it you’ll do in a traditional PM role anyway, or at least you should be, right? It’s the emphasis that is shifting more than anything else.

The biggest thing with agile is that you’re adopting a one size doesn’t fit all approach, so what works in one project with one team may not work in another. The agile frame work can be applied in any software development situation; however you must be careful to keep it as just that, a framework. Your role isn’t to fit agile into a new set of standards and procedures that may potentially hamper your company’s ability to react to changes in requirement. Your role as an agile PM is to help the team produce software that works the way the client expects it to in as little time as possible… better known as ROI.

But be forewarned, agile is not a chaotic, all bets are off, frantic race to the finish, it’s a methodical disciplined focused approach where only the tools that are needed are applied. That’s where the Role of the PM may very well add the most value in an agile organization; it’s in knowing the correct time to apply the correct tool to ensure the team is supported in their path to achieving their goal.  Any methodology is only as good as the people behind it. However, a good methodology makes it much easier to succeed when mixed with great people.

If you’re a PM that’s new to agile, don’t avoid it or go through the motions, give it an honest go and lead the change, your projects, teams and career will thank you for it.

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Nelson Bodnarchuk

Nelson Bodnarchuk

Student of life, fan of the electron, enemy of acronyms.

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