Are the roles one and the same? Many organisations currently transitioning from traditional Project Management to Agile Project Management are facing tough decisions as to whether there is no longer a need for the Project Manager role. Recently a known company employed a Scrum Master and fired a Project Manager on the understanding that a Scrum Master will lead and coach the Agile team. Agile delivery teams prefer to be led and coached as opposed to managed. Reason being much of the Agile way of working is based on teams being self-organized and collectively responsible for what they deliver.
Common Agile guides do not have the role of a project manager and in my personal view this is the right thinking because agile frameworks work well in operations and in projects, but the dilemma comes when using agile in projectized environments. What about the Project Manager’s role? Well, when you have a proper project management methodology in place then project manager’s role means that he or she has the authority to run the project on a day-to-day basis on behalf of the project board or steering committee within the constraints laid down by them. PRINCE2 methodology sees the role of a project manager as essential to protect necessary project governance specifically providing interfaces on project delivery, management and directing projects.
The project manager’s prime responsibility is to ensure that the project produces the required products or services within the specified tolerances of time, cost, quality, scope, risk and benefits. The project manager is also responsible for the project producing a result capable of achieving the benefits and value defined in the business case enshrined in the project charter or project brief.
The areas of role conflict or sticky points from Project Manager and Scrum Master are that project managers are generally associated with command and control style of leadership whilst a Scrum Master’s role is associated with coaching and leading agile teams. The fact that agile teams don’t want to be managed renders project manager’s command and control style of leadership incompatible with agile philosophy. Therefore, how do we strike a balance, because we need both?
What I mean is that we need agile teams primarily focussed on delivery and sprint goals ensuring after a sprint that deliverables are usable and can already bring benefits and value and at the same time we need a project manager to do integrated change control on a high level project scope baselines, high level risk management and resource prioritisation. Will a Scrum Master have time for that? Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate and like both Project Manager and Scrum master roles, but I think that they are both necessary in agile project management and that they must be carefully mapped and aligned in order to have best practice agile project governance.
Organisations or companies, which have embedded and adopted a proven project management methodology, can already benefit by adding a project management team structure from PRINCE2 to the delivery-based roles of agile which creates a very powerful combination. In simple terms the synchronization between these two is quite straightforward in that PRINCE2 provides very little specific guidance at the delivery/technical level; similarly, the most common
Agile frameworks provide very little specific guidance with respect to the roles of project management and project governance/direction.
The advantage with which PRINCE2 method and agile can be blended together depends upon the nature of the work involved. As soon as a piece of work involves more than just a few people and is difficult (i.e. it needs to be run as a project), there is a requirement to have clearly defined roles and responsibilities so that the correct communication and decisions can be taken at the right time and at the appropriate level.
In conclusion, a prevalent mistake made by most organisations is to see working in a more agile way as the goal to be achieved, as opposed to seeing it as an enabler to help the organization achieve its strategic goals aligned to the strategic plan. Agile should be seen as a means to an end and not an end in itself and can be used in Business as Usual as well as in projects.
Organizations and individuals looking to use agile, or improve their agile, should understand the problems they are trying to solve, or the opportunities they are looking to leverage, before commencing on any transition to a new or different way of working. With respect to ‘traditional’ projects, there are many common problems that are encountered – such as delivering the final product late, being over budget, the solution containing defects or the solution not being what the customer was expecting. The best way is to provide teams involved in projects is by training and certification in project management best practices like PRINCE and PMP.
This article was written by Dr Laban Mwansa, PMP®, PRINCE2® Practitioner, P2Agile®, COBIT®, and ITIL®. Laban is trainer/coach in Agile, PMP®, PRINCE2® Practitioner, P2Agile® in South Africa, Zambia and Europe for many years. Laban is a part-time facilitator for Faculty Training Institute in their Project Management portfolio.
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