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Agile Project Management – The Agile Project Manager and “blended Agile”

Agile Project Management – The Agile Project Manager and “blended Agile”. With regards to Agile methods, I’ve have sometimes read that “there is no role called ‘project manager’ on an agile team“.

This statement can probably apply to a “Scrum development team” but not to a Scrum Project, and absolutely not true in an Agile Project. In Agile, the team is self-managed. This means that each of the members need to know something about management, and as they are working on a project, they need to have knowledge in “project management”. So, as the team is self-managed, they are in fact all “Project Managers”. This is what happens in Scrum or other Agile methods where they don’t recognize the Project Manager role. But there are also other Agile methods that recognize the Project Manager role (e.g. DSDM). According to DSDM the Project Manager role is the entry point for project governance. The Project Manager in DSDM performs high-level planning, monitors progress, manages resource availability, controls project configuration, drives risk management and escalated issues (here you can read the complete role description).

So in fact, in an Agile Project Management implementation, there are two options: all the Team Members are Project Managers or you can designate a specific Project Manager (for example a team member as a PM). Many organizations keep Agile at the project team level and the Project Manager at the project governance level.

Agile itself is a set of principles covered in the Agile Manigesto. The Agile Manifesto doesn’t say that there is no need for Project Managers. Having an Agile Project Manager is a good practice and according to Agile DSDM necessary. It brings the possibility of “blended Agile”, because many organizations have other project management frameworks or methodologies running already (for example PRINCE2, for which there is guidance for combining them successfully).

Agile requires more face-to-face communications, more relationships with business users, either a Product Owner (in case of using Scrum) or a Business Ambassador/Analyst (in case of using DSDM). In fact, we are talking about the Agile Project Director. The Agile Project Director is the one responsible for maintaining the Product Backlog, prioritizing requirements, and grouping them into a potencially shippable product.

The difference of these two roles, Agile Project Manager and Agile Project Director, is that the Agile Project Manager is focused on project management with regards to resources and performance reporting to project governance (an Agile PMO), while the Agile Project Director is 100% focused on delivering incremental project products.

In case you choose not to have these two different roles, the Project Manager and Project Director, the project team can share the Project Manager role, and then the designated Project Director can report to project governance (but in this case, he will be doing administrative tasks and not focusing 100% on the product).

Having these two standard roles in your organization brings you the opportunity to have a better integration with any Agile approaches. By blending the Agile approach, the organization can keep and build on Agile at the team level and seamlessly integrate Project Management at the project level. This is because probably you have never noticed something: the Agile Manifesto is nothing about Project Management (there is no mention of the word ‘project’ in whole manifesto). The Agile Manifesto is only for Agile Software Development! Project Management world has simply found the initiative of the Agile Manifesto useful and has adapted it to its own discipline.

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