Overcoming hurdles for PMs when transitioning to agile

When organizations decide to transition from traditional approaches to agile ones, this change impacts all project roles but the most drastic shift could be that experienced by project managers.

This is especially true for organizations that are at a high level of project management maturity. In these, project sponsors or owners are likely already used to working closely with the project team and are comfortable with the need to be actively engaged in refining and prioritizing requirements. Project team members are also used to proactively informing their project managers of issues and provide their task progress updates using quantitative effort remaining estimates instead of the less trustworthy percentage complete.

For project managers, however, the shift in the nature of their roles is likely to be more significant.

On a traditional project, during planning and execution phases, the project manager plays a very directive role and may even act with a reasonable amount of authority. On the agile project, this approach won’t work as it could stifle or throttle the communication flow between the team and the customer and can reduce the empowerment of the team to get the work done.

A project manager that is used to spending hours on administrative activities such as managing change requests, updating massive project schedules and producing voluminous status reports will suddenly find themselves with less need to focus on the artifacts of the PM process and greater ability to facilitate communication between the customer and the team as well as being actively engaged in removing any and all roadblocks towards achieving optimal velocity.

This shift from administrative and directive activities during the core project phases should not faze PMs with well honed soft skills but for the less seasoned practitioners it is a good idea to be paired up with an agile-savvy mentor who has sufficient availability (and patience!) to be able to participate as an observer to scrum sessions, iteration planning meetings and iteration retrospectives. The beauty of agile is that the PM is able to receive actionable feedback at multiple times over the lifetime of the project without the need to wait till the project is over to know how they did and what could have been refined.

Project management is all about realizing change, but sometimes the hardest change to effect is in ourselves!

Categories: Agile, Facilitating Organization Change, Project Management | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Overcoming hurdles for PMs when transitioning to agile

  1. Vaughan Merlyn

    Excellent and valuable post, Kiron! Great insight into the always-tricky human behavior aspects of projects, and some of the ways behaviors have to change with the move to agile methods. Thank you!


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