Role of Project Manage?

Last post 10:32 am May 17, 2016
by Timothy Baffa
12 replies
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12:50 am May 4, 2016

I am aware of the fact that Scrum does not accommodate the role of Project Manager, however sometimes organisational structure introduces a project manager. Now my question is, in such cases what is the role of a project manager, how can one impact the team and to what extent can one have authority?

11:17 am May 4, 2016

Jibesh,

Since a project manager is not a recognized role in Scrum, it is safe to assume that there are "challenges" when an organization promotes the role of project manager in a Scrum environment.

In Scrum, it is the Product Owner who has authority over the backlog, and the Team who has authority over the sprint.

So I would ask you, how can a project manager role fit in that structure? What is the responsibility of a project manager, and how can that be supported within a Scrum framework?

02:18 pm May 4, 2016

1) How can [a PM] impact the team?
If the team is wanting to practice Scrum and a PM is given authority to manage the project, chances are that the new PM will impact the team in a few ways:

* Requiring precise time estimates for scheduling the developers' work
* Pressuring the developers to hit schedule deadlines (his/her job depends on the plan holding together)
* Solving problems for the team to ensure the schedule and prediction remain intact

These are just a few and are only direct effects. Many other secondary effects like loss of drive, waning urge to self-organize, etc are likely to follow.

2) To what extent can [a PM] have authority?

If the goal is to coach and teach the development team to self-organize, a PM should only have authority over the order of the work i.e. optimizing the value of the development team's time. This unfortunately conflicts with the Product Owner's duties and will cause a host of problems in the PM/PO relationship.

The takeaway is that traditional project management is split amongst the PO and the development team. Introducing a separate PM into Scrum is largely waste and will likely reduce the agility of the Scrum Team's practices, interactions and likely also the product itself.

03:03 pm May 4, 2016

I see the presence of a PM in organizations that follow a hybrid or a pseudo-agile approach. In most such cases, there is no PO in the setup so the PM gets to fulfill some of the responsibilities of a PO. In the setup where there is also a PO you can only expect clashes between the PM and PO, and the team being confused on who is accountable.

09:56 am May 5, 2016

In our organization, as we adopted Scrum, the role of Project Manager was removed and we had to either function either as the scrum master or the product owner. The PMs then got the necessary training and shifted their roles to align with Agile principles.

11:08 am May 5, 2016

In my company, Agile is far from beeing fully understand and implemened. For now, we are not able to drop the role of PM.
Some PM helps the POs by providing the reporting or helps the SM by removing organizational impediments.

But it is still a big anti-pattern for me.
Maintaining the role of the PM minimize the role of the SM and the PO.
Maintaining the role of PM minimize the ability of the Dev Team to self-organize.
Maintaining the role of the PM creates situations where the PM asks the Dev Team to perform some work, bypassing the PO, destroying transparency and confidence.

11:54 am May 5, 2016

Wow, it sounds like you're observing many negative effects of the organizations current way of working. Consider that it may be important to collect data on this effect and show how it is negatively impacting things the leadership care about e.g. employee turnover, lost profit opportunity, low morale, poor quality.

If you can show a strong correlation or even a causation link between this practice and these negative outcomes, you may be able to changes some minds about it.

10:07 am May 6, 2016

> I am aware of the fact that Scrum does not accommodate the role
> of Project Manager, however sometimes organisational structure
> introduces a project manager. Now my question is, in such cases
> what is the role of a project manager, how can one impact the team
> and to what extent can one have authority?

If the organization is to implement Scrum, the role of a PM must be to help refactor his or her competencies as far as possible over the 3 Scrum roles, such that a self-organizing Scrum Team can conceive, develop, and deliver increments of value.

Sometimes that isn't so much a position to be taken as a question to be asked. How serious *is* the organization about implementing Scrum, and to bring about deep and pervasive change? Are there any existing organizational roles, constraints, or practices which are too holy to be challenged?

03:01 pm May 6, 2016

Since a project manager's activities fall mainly under the product owner, why not have a project manager supporting the product owner?
There should only be one product owner in charge of product backlog, and the workload will be heavy. It may be justified to have a project manager supporting the Product Owner.

It came up during my scrum training today that this was where a project manager would best fit in Scrum methodology. Slightly outside, but supporting the key role of Product Owner.

02:01 am May 16, 2016

First of all i would like to thank every one for the response and secondly in current scenario our organisation has been practicing pseudo-agile, which has introduced a fully functional(able) Scrum team however has also introduced a Project Manager. As a result we have been facing most of the issues as mentioned above, lack of transparency and trust, mid sprint alterations , conflicting roles, etc. Such situation has let to inactive and inefficient running of the project. Now based on responses above it seems like that role PM is unnecessary and is to be avoided (Correct me if i am wrong). How ever the organisation is not ready and willing to make any changes, so what can be done (specially as a TEAM) to minimize the issues and its impact for such cases?

02:10 am May 16, 2016

If the project manager can play the role of support for the Product Owner then how have you guys allocated responsibilities and authority of for both the roles and what are their individual tasks (Which task and control goes to whom?).

And if the project is too big or complex for a TEAM to handle isn't is possible to break the project further and allocate different team a part of the project to handle? Just like a tree a Scrum Team consisting of many sub scrum team handing their tasks independently.

02:48 am May 17, 2016

If it is a mater of scale, you can look at framework like Nexus to scale your Scrum implementation.
It is still Scrum, so the roles are PO, Scrum Master and Dev Team.

In my context, the issue is not resolved, we have plenty of Projet Managers to keep bussy... :-(

10:32 am May 17, 2016

Posted By Jibesh Shrestha on 16 May 2016 02:01 AM
... we have been facing most of the issues as mentioned above, lack of transparency and trust, mid sprint alterations , conflicting roles, etc. Such situation has let to inactive and inefficient running of the project.

Now based on responses above it seems like that role PM is unnecessary and is to be avoided (Correct me if i am wrong). How ever the organisation is not ready and willing to make any changes, so what can be done (specially as a TEAM) to minimize the issues and its impact for such cases?

Jibesh, one thing to keep in mind about Agile/Scrum is it doesn't necessarily "solve" anything, but it does make many of the organizational impediments and inefficiencies visible for all to see. It is always up to the organization to decide what to do when faced with such issues.

Often when starting out in Scrum, an organization will stick their heads in the proverbial sand and continue doing whatever they're "familiar" with, regardless of any evidence they're presented with.

If your organization is truly dedicated to Scrum and reaping the many benefits of doing so, then at least one practice must be adhered to, regardless of whatever roles or processes the organization wants to preserve.

The sprint must be protected at all costs. This is the duty and responsibility of the Scrum Master.

When a team "accepts" work offered for an upcoming sprint (hopefully work that adheres to the team's Definition of Ready"), they are forecasting what they can complete within the sprint time box. Others need to "trust" that the team can meet their forecast.

Any "meddling" by a Project Manager (or Product Owner, or Stakeholder...) to add or change the agreed-to sprint work basically renders the practice meaningless. The team cannot hold themselves responsible for hitting a moving target, and the organization should not hold a team responsible for meeting goals that are variable and not fixed.

Sprints provide focus and a level of certainty around what is being worked on and what can be completed short-term. The goal of the sprint needs to be immutable, and the organization needs to understand this.

If an organization cannot commit to working Agile-ly around short windows and quicker feedback loops to facilitate a more dynamic approach to software development, then it is unfortunately SINO (Scrum In Name Only).

Good luck!