What Agile Project Managers Do Not Do, Part 2

In What Agile Project Managers Do, Part 1, I spoke about what agile project managers might do. Here’s what agile project managers do not do:

  • The agile project manager does not assign work.
  • The agile project manager does not estimate work on behalf of the team.
  • The agile project manager does not commit to features, stories, or tasks on behalf of the team.
  • The agile project manager does not agree to dates.
  • The agile project manager does not agree to constraints on the project.

For many new-to-agile teams, this is a huge change. In plan-driven approaches, such as waterfall or phase-gate life cycles, there is no such role as the Product Owner. In the plan-driven approaches, the project manager assesses the requirements and decides what features/requirements/whatever, the team should do first, second, third, and so on. The project manager decides on the deliverables and performs rolling-wave planning if the project manager understands about deliverable-based planning.

In agile, the product owner performs rolling wave deliverable-based planning. The PO decides which features (deliverables) the team needs to implement now, and what rank they are.The PO decides when to replan. The agile project manager might assist/suggest/facilitate, but the deliverable-based planning is the PO’s job.

These changes have several implications:

  • The PO manages the “commitments” to external requests. (What many project managers used to do.)
  • The PO defines deliverables. (What many project managers used to do.)
  • The PO defines the rolling wave planning. (What many project managers used to do.)

This can be a very large change for more traditional project managers, who were accustomed to making their deliverable-based rolling wave plan work. (Yes, you could make a waterfall project work with deliverable-based rolling wave planning. It was much more difficult but possible.) Some project managers have a difficult time reconciling their role to be one of servant leader, facilitating the team’s work rather than directing in.

I will post about how the product owner and agile project manager might work together in part 3.

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  1. Dew Drop - October 6, 2016 (#2339) - Morning Dew - […] What Agile Project Managers Do Not Do, Part 2 (Johanna Rothman) […]
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