The Agile Project Manager
Combating the misnomer —“there is no place for project management in Agile”
Project Managers in the digital world are facing a lot of challenges. Whether is it the ever-changing requirements or responding to change through adaptation — this article highlights the reason why Agile Project Managers are needed now, more than ever!
But first things first…
What is Agile Project Management?
Agile Project Management is an iterative approach to deliver a project throughout its life cycle. The Iterative approach is frequently used in digital projects to promote velocity and adaptability.
The the benefit of iteration is you can adjust as you go, rather than following a traditional method.
As an Agile Project Manager, you can break large projects down into smaller chunks making it more manageable. This allows your team to adapt to change quickly and deliver work faster than traditional methods.
Agile project management is a collaborative, iterative project management approach that incorporates continuous testing and the ability to respond to change.
What happens to the PM role in Agile?
Instead of controlling the playing field from a high-level position, the Agile Project Manager seeks internal and external feedback. As a result, the Agile PM can act on changes, challenges and issues more swiftly.
This is where Agile PMs add real value. The Agile PM engages in collaborative discussions to determine high-level requirements — all based on what is known now (this is known as Just in Time Planning — JIT).
These plans are then broken down on smaller chunks and progressively elaborated and realized on by the development team throughout the delivery of the project.
Working with Stakeholders
The Agile project manager collaborates more closely with stakeholders. Doing this enables the Agile PM to connect the dots between high-level requirements and the day-to-day running of the project. Agile PMs work closely with stakeholders and product owners setting up the vision of the project, ensuring transparency is met throughout and helping to define and create a shared understanding of what ‘Done’ looks like.
The Agile PM curates this process helping the team and the project get alignment and paving a road to success.
Characteristics of Agile Project Management
The following list highlights the value and benefits of Agile Project Management.
- Ability to manage small chunks of work.
- You get to receive benefits earlier.
- Agile project management contains iterations of up to twelve weeks long.
- Ability to produce a real tangible product using Just in time planning (JIT).
- Use of virtual tools
- Sponsor needs to be committed, that is where a good Agile PM comes in.
- Scope is changeable, this is your magic lever. Instead of getting all or nothing, you get potentially shippable products at end of every sprint.
- Agile PMs are the curators of the project vision.
- Communication with stakeholders is critical, that is where a good Agile PM comes in.
- Agile project management has less project planning upfront (JIT).
- There is a general notion of where you are going but you have the option to change priority if scope along the way.
- You can make frequent improvements on how to get there.
- Agile is adaptive and not predictive; this provides freedom for creativity and innovation. However, the predictability is there through the build up of small repeatable time boxes that are scheduled along the way to check in, inspect and adapt frequently.
- Ability to build your deliverable items one at a time like building a stack of Lego.
Manage Work, Not People
The Agile PM turns into a top leader — that lead by example and empowers their team, rather than traditional managers that tend to adopt a more control and conquer ethos.
Management takes a different form. It focuses on managing the work, and not the people.
Tip: Take a systems view approach over your processes. Find ways to optimize value streams rather than individual performances. This enables you to strive for a smoother path, and work alongside the project life-cycle.
Embrace the Agile Mindset
Being an Agile Project Manager means you need to have an Agile Mindset. Embracing this mindset enables you to be more proactive and responsive when change comes suddenly. Doing a lot of communicating and managing throughout the project life-cycle means you need to work on your emotional intelligence and active listening skills.
Moreover, being able to adapt your leadership approach and skill set in different environments — all the while aligning the team with project goals helps you build high-performing teams that can succeed in the most challenging of projects.
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The Agile Project Manager should focus on strategic decision making. Using a broader focus on programmes of work rather than silo projects.
Agile project managers should be outcome focused and widen their skill set to focus on bigger picture solutions.
Agile Project Managers still maintain the role of being solely responsible for the successful implementation of the quality defined product. Additionally, Agile project managers purpose is to still support the team throughout the iterations, and shield them from distractions.
In Agile, Project managers are now project leaders. To be successful, you need to embrace the Agile mindset. Then focus your efforts on leading by example, empowering your team, and managing the work, not the people.
Source: Luke Pivac