“I am a project manager. What is my role now that we are moving to Scrum?”
This is a common question in my Professional Scrum classes. It often comes up right after we discuss that there are three roles in Scrum, and project manager is not one of them. In this post, I share my story of discovering Scrum after starting my career as a project manager in a waterfall world. I will conclude with some ideas for project managers to consider for their future.
I started my career in traditional project management (i.e. waterfall). I was good at it, and I enjoyed it. I was able to leverage my organizational and facilitation skills, as well as my ability to be both detail-oriented and see the bigger picture. I enjoyed supporting a team of people, helping them focus on what they are great at.
I was always facilitative in my approach, knowing that I was not the best person to decide how to do the work or solve the problems. I could bring people together and provide the space for them to navigate the complexities as a team.
I accepted that change was going to happen and didn’t try to ignore it or wait until there was a crisis to respond to it. I relied on my facilitation skills and foresight to help teams re-group and determine the path forward with the new information.
I believe both my enabling approach and responsiveness to change led me to success as a project manager.
However, the realities of the over-scheduled and indecisive way organizations plan and execute work created stress and discomfort for me.
- There was always pressure to meet a date (even if it was arbitrary).
- People were stretched so thin, pressured to do more (and I was expected to be part of applying this pressure).
- There was a need to “escalate” constantly because of the conflicting priorities. Everything was an emergency.
- I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders, even though I didn’t have the ability to do the work, nor the authority to support the people doing the work.
Do organizations really want intelligent and experienced project managers spending their days asking people the percent complete on task XYZ, creating status reports that don’t provide much meaningful information, documenting everything that happens to avoid blame later, and jumping through hoops to get approval to change the plan?
The original purpose of a project manager has gotten lost and diluted over the years.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) describes project managers as “change agents.”
And I believe Scrum is the greatest thing to happen to project managers.
Scrum allows project managers to use their skills and experience in bigger more impactful ways.
Scrum empowers and enables self-organizing and cross-functional Development Teams to be accountable for creating releasable product Increments. They don’t need a project manager to tell them what to do and track their progress. And having a “Done” Increment means we can stop pretending that 85% complete means anything.
Scrum creates the conditions that force organizations to make choices about what …read more
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