As companies begin the journey of transforming their delivery practices from traditional to agile approaches, role transitions can be challenging. Such transitions include shifts from functional specialization to “Jack of all Trades, Master of One” for delivery team members as well as the need for increased involvement of product owners and control/governance partners.
But let’s not ignore the role of the project manager.
Some might argue that project managers are no longer required once an organization has fully institutionalized agile. The transition from project to product/capability/value stream work completed by long lived teams might somewhat reduce the need, but most companies will have initiatives where complexity, a large number of stakeholders, or other criteria will require dedicated project management support. And the project to product shift will require sufficient time to enable project managers to move to the new operating model.
So let’s say that you are transitioning from being a project manager on a traditional project to a team lead, Scrum Master or similar role on an agile team or team-of-teams. Which project management skills should you emphasize within your development plan?
Basic competency in hard skills such as budgeting, scheduling and risk analysis will be an asset but there is a much greater need of soft skills such as stakeholder management, communication, collaboration and facilitation.
This might force you to learn more about the scope of your project and the approach to deliver it than you would have previously expected. By doing so you will increase your effectiveness at identifying and engaging enterprise stakeholders. It may also better equip you to roll up your sleeves and contribute towards helping your team meet iteration commitments.
When the team identifies impediments during their daily standups or in retrospectives, your relationship-building and influencing skills will be fully exercised as you work with the owners of those issues to get them resolved as quickly as possible. Procrastination or trying to play nice by not making waves will neither endear you to the team nor your stakeholders.
Your coaching skills will be tested beyond the scope of your team when dealing with sponsors and other executives that are new to agile. Encouraging greater levels of involvement but ensuring that they understand the productivity impacts of behaviors such as interfering in standups or increasing iteration scope can be like walking on a tightrope.
Aspire to embody the learnings in Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership and McGregor’s Human Side of Enterprise. Although both were written a quarter century before the Agile Manifesto was signed, the principles within the Manifesto align well with those found within those books.
A critical measure of your success is the team’s acknowledgement that their ability to deliver business value in a rapid, quality manner was enhanced and not hindered by your involvement.