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The Agile Project Manager - fact or fiction ?


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While the agile community still has difficulty in acknowledging the need for project managers, the fact is that large, complex organizations on an evolutionary path to a more modern solutions delivery paradigm can reap tremendous benefit from the continued services of seasoned project managers.
Daniel Gagnon`s presentation examines some of the ways in which PMs can evolve towards servant leadership and remain relevant in an increasingly agile organizational context.

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The Agile Project Manager - fact or fiction ?

  1. 1. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 1 The Agile Project Manager Fact or Fiction?
  2. 2. Daniel Gagnon CDAI, CDAC,PMP, PMI-ACP, SPC4, CSM, LSSYB • Over 20 Years of Project and Project Portfolio Management experience • Enterprise Lean/Agile thought and practice leader, past 8 years in large Canadian Financial institutions • Certified Disciplined Agile Coach and Instructor • DAC member since 2014, member DAC Advisory Council • Instructor for Montreal PMI Chapter's PMI-ACP certification exam prep course • Contributor/Instructor, Agile for Project Managers, McGill University 2
  3. 3. Agenda • The context of large organizations • The Agile magic wand • Agile Roles • Where can PMs add value • Conclusion © Disciplined Agile Consortium 3
  5. 5. Large organizations and the Cynefin model © Disciplined Agile Consortium 5 By Snowden - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, (Stewart) identifies battlefields, markets, ecosystems and corporate cultures as complex systems that are "impervious to a reductionist, take-it-apart-and-see- how-it-works approach, because your very actions change the situation in unpredictable ways."[19]
  6. 6. Enterprise history and legacy © Disciplined Agile Consortium 6 • This material in this presentation applies to large organizations with long and deep histories struggling to come to terms with the need to modernize their business solutions delivery paradigm • Examples include (but are not limited to) financial institutions, retailers, government agencies, restaurant chains, transport and logistics companies • In other words, organizations that need to evolve from a less than ideal starting point (contrarily to the Facebooks, LinkedIns and Googles) and have to contend with legacy cultures, legacy organizational structures, and legacy IT infrastructures.
  7. 7. The Agile Magic Wand • Although explicitly specified as a legitimate role in both DSDM and the Agile Unified Process, the Project Manager role is conspicuously absent from the bulk of today’s mainstream Agile frameworks • The rationale is usually along the lines that the responsibilities of the Project Manager are divided amongst the Scrum Master/Agile coach, the Product Owner and the teams • This is actually wishful thinking in the context of large, complex organizations – akin to waving a magic wand 7 © Disciplined Agile Consortium
  8. 8. Agile Roles – Scrum Masters / Coaches • Scrum Masters / Coaches need to concentrate on providing stewardship of their teams’ values, processes and behaviours • In some organizations, these individuals are viewed and treated almost as command and control Project managers – made “responsible” for increasing velocity or productivity for example. This is a clear antipattern • Do not always possess the political skillset necessary to effectively navigate organizational channels – this limits their ability to “remove impediments” beyond a very basic team level 8 © Disciplined Agile Consortium
  9. 9. Agile Roles – Product Owners • A complex and demanding role, one of the hinges of Agile success or failure • All of their energy needs to be directed towards Value identification and benefits hypotheses • A frequent antipattern observed is that of POs engaging with the various moving parts of the enterprise without the benefit of thorough stakeholder analysis. This leads to incomplete product vision and flawed road maps as scope becomes injected late in the process (when the forgotten stakeholders appear on the scene – usually brandishing pitchforks and torches) 9 © Disciplined Agile Consortium
  10. 10. Roles in general • One of the main messages of today’s session is that we should not allow ourselves to blindly constrain our organizations to the canon of methods and frameworks • In the end, the key is to empower people to do their best by tapping into intrinsic motivation. Using people's skills at cross-purposes for the sake of following a recipe is not constructive • In the following section, we’ll examine how Project managers of varying degrees of experience and expertise can add value to our agile endeavours – either by bringing skills to the table the other roles lack, or taking on tasks that underuse other roles 10 © Disciplined Agile Consortium
  11. 11. Project Managers can add value in many areas © Disciplined Agile Consortium 11
  12. 12. Example / Walkthrough © Disciplined Agile Consortium 12 • An architectural Spike is carried out in iteration 12 of a multi-release initiative. The working hypothesis was that an existing service could be consumed in order to add an important new client-valued feature • The hypothesis is discovered to be false. The service would need to be modified, the contract changed, and substantial non-regression testing across multiple platforms would be required • Aspects of the new feature would also call into question the manner in which explicit consent would need to be obtained from customers regarding the use and storage of their data, drawing corporate privacy and security firmly into the ranks of active stakeholders
  13. 13. Example / Walkthrough © Disciplined Agile Consortium 13 • Legal, Finance and Risk would also need to be involved in order to review the implications of what the spike revealed • Another rather unhelpful aspect soon comes to light: Marketing have been hard at work on a campaign which would sell the benefits of the new feature to the entire user base – and have been working from a Roadmap that the PO has not had the time to update in the last 2 iterations.
  14. 14. Example / Walkthrough – LIVE POLL © Disciplined Agile Consortium 14 • It’s time for an interactive experiment • Using the polling feature, please vote for whom you think would be the most appropriate individual to handle this situation 1 – the agile coach 2 – the Product Owner 3 – a Project Manager 4 – a Business analyst
  15. 15. Example / Walkthrough – LIVE POLL © Disciplined Agile Consortium 15 • Results 1 – the agile coach 2 – the Product Owner 3 – a Project Manager 4 – a Business analyst
  16. 16. Example / Walkthrough © Disciplined Agile Consortium 16 • This type of situation can completely sidetrack Product Owners, as they are drawn into a political and administrative quagmire. No other useful progress can be made while they deal with it. • Nor is it within the purview of scrum masters or coaches – as mentioned earlier, they need to concentrate on team processes and behaviours (and would likely not possess the political credibility to deal with a wide array of enterprise functions) • Although it will require the hard work of a BA to unravel a lot of the tangles described, actually galvanizing the organization to collaborate towards a solution is best left to a project manager with the skills to see the job through
  17. 17. Example / Walkthrough © Disciplined Agile Consortium 17 • This is only one of a very large number of possible situations in which the project, and the organization as a whole would benefit from access to deep project management skills • In this case, the PM could – organize the necessary meetings and workshops with all stakeholders – work with the PO and Business analysts to ensure capture of all concerns – ensure clear and concise communication around the issues, and work to obtain the cooperation of all required corporate actors
  18. 18. A few more practical examples © Disciplined Agile Consortium 18
  19. 19. A few more practical examples: © Disciplined Agile Consortium 19 Traceability tends to be the bane of Agile teams existence, as it would appear to be baked into the methods – but rarely truly is. A Junior PM or PCO assigned by the PMO could work with team members and the coach to ensure tight discipline in terms of tying user Stories and Epics back to higher level scope.
  20. 20. A few more practical examples © Disciplined Agile Consortium 20 Dedicated change management resources are not systematically built into all project budgets. Experienced PMs can help via efficient stakeholder analysis as well as with robust communication plans
  21. 21. A few more practical examples © Disciplined Agile Consortium 21 Agile aware and friendly PMs can greatly assist in the drafting and application of procurement contracts that respect the iterative, incremental and adaptive nature of agile solutions delivery
  22. 22. A few more practical examples © Disciplined Agile Consortium 22 The Agile PM can help PMOs adapt and evolve their governance and gating processes to a leaner state
  23. 23. A few more practical examples © Disciplined Agile Consortium 23 Well-executed and governed agility inherently reduces risk – but overt, explicit risk management remains an excellent practice, and one that the PM can proactively oversee Example of a JIRA risk management plugin
  24. 24. A few more practical examples © Disciplined Agile Consortium 24 In the case of an evolving product or platform serviced by dedicated agile teams, PMs or PCOs can help alleviate the PO’s substantial workload by maintaining open and noise-free communication channels with corporate marketing and communications. Sharing the vision and roadmap, providing updates on MVP release windows are some of the issues that could be addressed
  25. 25. A few more practical examples © Disciplined Agile Consortium 25 Working with Finance and the EPMO, an Agile PM could help evolve program and portfolio reporting, e.g. by providing guidance around agile capitalization (and the necessary line of sight into the roadmap and the content of MVPs)
  26. 26. At a higher level, Agile Project managers should © Disciplined Agile Consortium 26 • Act as diligent organizational navigators, coordinators, facilitators and negotiators • Work hand-in-hand with the coaches, POs, and the entire team in order to ensure early and effective communications and alignment • Have neither the time nor the slightest inclination to micro-manage the team • Are firm advocates and contributors to the constant evolution of organizational governance and agility
  27. 27. As to the question in the title of this presentation … © Disciplined Agile Consortium 27 • The notion that large, complex organizations can effectively deliver high-quality business solutions without the help of skilled project managers is pure fiction. • The fact is that we still need the political savvy, organizational awareness and time-proven techniques that professional project managers bring to the table
  28. 28. Parting thoughts… © Disciplined Agile Consortium 28 • Many of you will have noticed that the example I used about the architectural Spike was actually symptomatic of a few (alas typical) organizational dysfunctions / misses – e.g., – Why was something so risky left until iteration 12 ? – Why have waited until it was inevitable to invite corporate security and privacy functions to the table? – Why was a 2-month reality vs. plan gap allowed to develop? – Why wasn’t anyone checking in with Marketing more frequently?
  29. 29. Parting thoughts… © Disciplined Agile Consortium 29 • The answer to all of these questions can be best summed up as : 20th century agile and its resistance to the very idea of project managers – in addition to a hyperfocus on Business value alone, to the detriment of other types of work (architecture, technical debt, risk reduction) • Lightweight DA Milestones and governance address these issues quite directly and efficiently:
  30. 30. DAD Milestones Milestone Fundamental Question Asked Stakeholder vision Do stakeholders agree with your strategy? Proven architecture Can you actually build this? Continued viability Does the effort still make sense? Sufficient functionality Does it make sense to release the current solution? Production ready Will the solution work in production? Delighted stakeholders Are stakeholders happy with the deployed solution? 30 © Disciplined Agile Consortium
  31. 31. The Disciplined Agile Enterprise © Disciplined Agile Consortium 31
  32. 32. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 32
  33. 33. Shuhari and Disciplined Agile Certification At the shu stage you are beginning to learn the techniques and philosophies of disciplined agile development. Your goal is to build a strong foundation from which to build upon. At the ha stage you reflect upon and question why disciplined agile strategies work, seeking to understand the range of strategies available to you and when they are best applied. At the ri stage you seek to extend and improve upon disciplined agile techniques, sharing your learnings with others. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 33
  34. 34. Got Discipline? © Disciplined Agile Consortium 34