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The Agile Project Manager role

Adrian Sita
29 Jul, 2019
4 m read

What do project managers do?

In short, the agile project manager are responsible for the planning, executing, monitoring, controlling, and completion of projects, while dealing with project management challenges. However, that is just the tip of the project management iceberg.

Here are a few of the main project manager responsibilities:

Build the plan

Project managers are in charge of plotting out the most realistic course for the project. The plan must include the project scope, timeline, and budget. This can also include identifying the right tools for the job.

Assemble the team

Identifying the proper team is critical to the success of the project. Every project team will vary depending on the scope of the initiative and the functions needed to complete the project. Finding specialists and subject matter experts for each of the necessary tasks is ideal.

Assign tasks

Project managers must provide their team with a clear definition of specific tasks and timeline for every part of the project. Although each team member will be responsible for his/her own assignments, many tasks will require collaboration from both internal and external team members.

Leading the team

Now that the team has been assembled and their tasks have been assigned, the project manager must keep the machine well-oiled. This will include checking in on individuals for status updates, identifying and clearing roadblocks, negotiating disagreements, keeping team morale high, and providing training and mentoring.

Managing budget

Most projects will require some expenses, which means understanding how to put together a project budget and managing cost is critical for success. This will involve comparing real-life expenditures to estimates, and adjusting the project plan if necessary.

Managing timelines

As with the budget, project managers are tasked with keeping everything on schedule so the team meets their projected deadlines for completion. This will require setting realistic deadlines throughout the lifecycle of the project, communicating consistently with their team for status updates, and maintaining a detailed schedule.

Engaging stakeholders

Stakeholders play a large role in your project. They are typically influential people who are affected by the project. Project managers need to maintain a good relationship and an open line of communication with stakeholders who can not only help clear roadblocks and empower your team, but also create unnecessary bottlenecks and derail a project if they become unhappy with the direction.

Handover the project

Just because the project’s objectives have been delivered doesn’t mean a project manager’s job is over. The project manager must now deliver the project to the team who will be managing, maintaining, and operating it moving forward. At this point, the project manager will no longer be the “go to” person, and will be assigned to a new project.

Document the process

Identifying and documenting “lessons learned” is not only a good practice for personal project manager growth, but also for relaying that experience to other teams around the organisation for future use. This will help others avoid making the same mistakes, or taking advantage of shortcuts discovered.

agile project manager

What are the hats that a Project Manager should wear?

A key facilitator

Their goal is to empower their team and clear potential roadblocks, paving the way for project success.

Change management expert

They will be tasked with rallying the entire organisation around agile project management, ushering new processes, and communicating with company stakeholders.

Strategic coach and trainer

In an agile environment, change happens fast. Project managers will be tasked with helping their teams master the newest tools, workflows and processes.

Key skills of a successful agile project manager

Regardless of how an organisation defines the role of agile project manager, anyone tasked with managing projects in an agile environment should possess the following qualities for success:

  • Exceptional organisational skills, including the ability to prioritise
  • Should be focused on essential components of the project
  • The ability to thrive—and remain calm—under pressure
  • Excellent communication skills and the ability to work well with others.
  • Superior critical thinking capabilities
  • Comfort with quickly changing priorities and a high level of adaptability and flexibility

Can an Agile Project Manager be a great Scrum Master?

If you see it as it simple is the Project Manager and Scrum Master roles are in conflict: a PM role is “command and control” mindset and the SM role is a “servant leader” mindset.
I have been a technical person but with more than 5 years not coding or learning in depth about new technologies is hard to be a new technical expert or a SME and this is why now I see myself as a servant leader, and of course my job is to serve the team, keep the project on track and remove blockers to progress. Either as a PM or a SM, I serve the team.

What about double personality? 🙂

As an Agile Project Manager, you protect the interests of the product owner (primary stakeholders) and project goals

As a Scrum Master, you protect the core/delivery team from all outside interference.

But what about self organising teams?

  • The PMs with less than medium EQ could perceive it as threaten because it suggests a diminishment of the PM role.
    What are clients thinking? Combined PM/SM role is quite attractive to managers and clients because it obviates the need to hire a separate Scrum Master, which of course is very good in terms of the financial aspects of the project.

Some (final) thoughts

It’s just the mindset that makes the difference between a PM or a SM (of course it is hard to change the mindset but not as multiple people are sustaining the idea).

This article is part of a bigger topic called: 

Agile Project Management

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