Agile Project Management
By Mark Norman
Agile project management is almost a misnomer, in Scrum there is no such role as the project manager. However as project managers we may be asked manage agile projects.
Scrum consists of three roles namely product owner, ScrumMaster and the wider team. The product owner is responsible for ensuring the right product is being built. This is a challenging role and the product manager has to juggle a range of priorities. He should be available to the team and be able to make decisions about the product. If the product manager cannot make decisions then this can have a significant impact on an agile project. We do not want to deal with decision making as exceptional events, the information should be quickly presented and the team empowered to make decisions.
The scrum master works to manage the progress of the team. He should remove any hurdles to progress, facilitate workshops and meetings and monitor progress. The scrum master is the closest role to that of the traditional project manager. However, if you are a scrum master be careful not to be a project manager. By that I mean we should not be shackled by classic project management processes. I talked about lean methods before and those principles should be present in the scrum master role. It’s about doing the right things rather than doing things right.
The team members are the intellectual power in the agile process. They provide the intellectual capital to build the products identified by the product manager. They are the engine that delivers the results usually through an agreed iterative process with the product manager. Various approaches can be taken to managing the process of product creation, we can timebox or set requirement limits and so on. The aim being that we quickly identify what we need to do, prioritize and agree what we work on; and rely on the scrum master to create the environment that can deliver success.
This is a step change for some project managers who suddenly find themselves in an agile environment. It is an environment where responsibility is devolved down to the team. The team can set workloads and control scope whilst the product manager is empowered to make scope/time/cost tradeoffs. For a project manager moving into Agile teams this can be a liberating process and, given the right project, can demonstrate how powerful a process agile can be. Working in agile environments presents a significant personal development opportunity for a project manager. It shows how there is no one size fits all approach to project management, rather that we have a series of tools at our disposal that we utilize on a situation by situation basis.
Mark Norman is a leader, project manager, part time archaeologist and mountain climber. You can read more from Mark on his blog.