Is There Room for Project Managers in an Agile Environment?

Posted by:whitridge
09 February 2021 0
As companies adopt Agile mindsets some team members may question where they fit in their project, if at all. The Project Manager had a clearly defined role in Waterfall methodology but the Agile methodology is, at its core, a self-organizing team. Simply put, if the team is self-organizing, why do they need a Project Manager? While Project Managers may not have a role in the traditional sense, if they’re willing to adjust and better align their skills to the Agile mindset, they’ll prove to be as essential as they are in a Waterfall project. 
Embrace Agile Principles 
An Agile Project Manager should fully embrace the 12 Agile Principles. 
1. Satisfy Customers Through Early & Continuous Delivery
2. Welcome Changing Requirements Even Late in the Project
3. Deliver Value Frequently
4. Break the Silos of Your Project
5. Build Projects Around Motivated Individuals
6. The Most Effective Method of Communication is Face-to-face
7. Working Software is the Primary Measure 
8. Maintain a Sustainable Working Pace of Progress
9. Continuous Excellence Enhances Agility
10. Simplicity is Essential
11. Self-organizing Teams Generate Most Value
12. Regularly Reflect and Adjust Your Way of Work to Boost Effectiveness 
Soft Skills are Paramount
Project Managers that are able to adapt their leadership approach to be active listeners and to hone their ability to understand their team’s motivations, feelings, and ideas will fare much better in an Agile environment than a PM that takes the hierarchy of the team very literally. Because Agile methodology embraces a more fluid structure than Waterfall and places a great deal of responsibility on the project team rather than one manager – a Project Manager in an Agile environment should be open and accepting of feedback from their team.
Consider the Scrum Master Role
The Scrum Master is accountable for the Scrum Team’s effectiveness. Scrum Masters are considered the process experts. With that expertise, they enable the team to take advantage of the process and to produce high quality results. Someone that has been in a traditional project management role may find the Scrum Master role a natural fit for their skill set.
In Mountain Goat Software’s article, “Agile Project Management,” they highlight the difference between a Scrum Master and a Project Manager, “In Agile project management, the world may come to view the Scrum Master as a 21st century version of the project manager. But unlike a traditional project manager, the Scrum Master is not viewed as the person to credit (or blame) for the success (or failure) of the project.
The Scrum Master’s authority extends only to the process. The Scrum Master is an expert on the process, and on using it to get a team to perform to its highest level. But a Scrum Master does not have many of the traditional responsibilities – scope, cost, personnel, risk management – that a project manager does.” defines the Scrum Master’s role as being: 
The Scrum Master serves the Scrum Team in several ways, including:
  • Coaching the team members in self-management and cross-functionality;
  • Helping the Scrum Team focus on creating high-value Increments that meet the Definition of Done
  • Causing the removal of impediments to the Scrum Team’s progress; and,
  • Ensuring that all Scrum events take place and are positive, productive, and kept within the timebox.
The Scrum Master serves the Product Owner in several ways, including:
  • Helping find techniques for effective Product Goal definition and Product Backlog management;
  • Helping the Scrum Team understand the need for clear and concise Product Backlog items;
  • Helping establish empirical product planning for a complex environment; and,
  • Facilitating stakeholder collaboration as requested or needed.
The Scrum Master serves the organization in several ways, including:
  • Leading, training, and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption;
  • Planning and advising Scrum implementations within the organization;
  • Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact an empirical approach for complex work; and,
  • Removing barriers between stakeholders and Scrum Teams.
Both and the ScrumAlliance offer rigorous training and certifications for Scrum Masters. 
Learn about the Product Owner Role
Project Managers can also consider the Product Owner role in an Agile team. Product Owners are accountable for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team. They also manage the product backlog.
The Product Owner is accountable for effective product backlog management: 
  • Developing and explicitly communicating the Product Goal;
  • Creating and clearly communicating Product Backlog items;
  • Ordering Product Backlog items; and,
  • Ensuring that the Product Backlog is transparent, visible and understood. and the ScrumAlliance offers training and certifications for Product Owners. 
A Project Manager is an integral part of the project team and the adoption of Agile should be seen as a new opportunity rather than an impediment to your career. The business and technology staffing team at Whitridge works with incredibly talented Project Managers in various stages in their career and clients that are looking to integrate them into their Agile teams. If you’re a Project Manager looking for a new job or need an ally in your career development, reach out to our recruiting team, we’re here to be a resource to you
This blog post was written by Danielle Larson, Talent Acquisition & Engagement Specialist 
About Whitridge Associates
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Reference Articles

Mountain Goat Software: Agile Project Management [View Article] What is a Scrum Master? [View Article] What is a Product Owner? [View Article]
Kanbanize: What Are the 12 Principles of Agile Project Management? [View Article]