An Agile Team Needs its PM.
One of the common questions asked during scrum master training is, “what does a PM do on a scrum team?” It’s a fair question –scrum and agile practices totally de-emphasize traditional activities of a project manager. The PM isn’t accountable any more, the team is; the PM isn’t handing out tasks, the team is; the PM isn’t even driving anymore, the product owner and the team are driving together. Probably the hardest transition is the PM is no longer the captain of the ship. Especially on a well-functioning team, a PM may feel like there’s nothing to do except set up meetings here and there. I’ve heard one PM say he felt he was relegated to project “administration.” It’s not that bleak. Fear not, dear PMs, for an agile team still needs you. And needs you desperately. This is my call to you:
You protect the team from outside forces.
You know enough about the product to keep the team focused when it starts to wander.
You support whatever they need to stay focused (even if it’s bringing in a coffee maker).
You are eyes and ears to the outside world –you are their scout.
You listen to what else is going on, looking for crossover points that affect your team.
You listen for requests to talk to external teams.
You jump in to push people to talk to each other.
You listen first, read your ALM tool second.
You are inquisitive and Socratic, confirming that the team is aware of its decisions.
You are the bridge and vehicle that connects the team to everyone else, working hallways and meetings like an experienced politician.
You are shepherd, coach, early warning system, confidant and reality check.
How, on a day-to-day basis, can you do this? Know your tools. Outlook, WebEx, Rally, Excel, whiteboards, sticky notes, pen, paper, your feet, ears, voice. Be expert in the nuances of meeting requests. Have the WebEx started a couple minutes prior to the meeting. Take notes as if you have amnesia, and make them public. Know when the tool is getting in the way, too. Don’t hold up the velocity of conversation by reordering columns in Excel. Take notes and clean-up later, sharing the results.
You have a lot to do, and I look forward to your success.