Agile Project Management, Mythical Hero

Are we killing the mythical hero, the Agile Project Manager?

In recent weeks, I have been trying not to comment on Agile Project Management and Agile Project Manager topics, on LinkedIn and other social media sites. I have been successful in avoiding these discussions, well, most of the time. But 

Agile Project Management, Agile Project Manager

This morning, in the shower, the following thought came to my wet head. Maybe the water was too cold, I do not know. Here it is:

Capital Projects

In capital projects (facilities projects), and at least in project owner organizations,

  • We have a project manager; responsible C2C (Concept to Closure).
  • The person could change along the life cycle but there is a PM, ONE PM.
  • This PM is assisted by a PMT, project management team (some call it temporary PMO).
  • During the engineering phase, we have an engineering manager.
  • Next, in the construction phase, we have a construction manager.
  • During the commissioning phase, we have a commissioning/start-up manager.
  • All of the above report to the PM or the Project Executive (Sponsor)

Technology/Software Development Projects

In comparison, when we look at IT, or software development projects, and in owner’s organizations, we see a contrast. For example,

  • We, typically, DO NOT have a PM covering the project C2C. 
  • Maybe someone from a business unit does some initial work.
  • Maybe another person in another unit does more work.
  • All of the above, reporting to their functional managers.
  • Then comes the IT work, or the development phase.
  • For this phase, typically an IT(?) department will handle.

((( development phase would be somewhat equivalent to the construction phase or maybe engineering/construction)))

  • During this development phase, the team could follow many product development approaches, such as scrum, waterfall, etc.
  • Some think there are only two approaches Waterfall or Agile, but that is for another discussion.
  • Let us go with the flow and say: during the development work we follow the “Agile XYZ”,
  • What should be the title of the person leading this work?

If we compare to capital projects, the person leading this work should be called development manager; or something like that. However, in the absence of a project manager position, the common practice is to call this person a Project Manager. However, this person is NOT managing the whole project, he or she is managing only a PHASE. Yet, we hear about Agile Project Management and Agile Project Manager, which technically not logical. In other words, there is NO Agile Project Manager because there is NO Agile Project and NO Agile Project Management.

Before moving on, if it is not obvious yet, in one industry we give a manager of a project phase the proper title (engineering manager, construction manager), whereas in another industry we give a bigger title (project manager); it is kind of arrogance is not it?

What is the relevance?

On the surface, it does not matter what title you give that person, you can even call them POTUS or Chief Executive Officer of the Universe. However, many of the debates revolve around using the title Project Manager for that person.

In retrospective, Agilists have been bombarding us with articles about Agile Project Management and Agile Project Manager to the point where we are disgusted with their snake oil recipes and incompetent posts (not everyone but a large percentage).

The irony is that many of those Agilists are now bombarding us with posts with topics such as “we do not need a project manager in Agile”, and we read about “RIP Agile PM”. It seems like those Agilists created an imaginary hero, and now they brought their kryptonite, sorry Kraptonite to kill this mythical hero.

Closing Comments

Agility, repeat, agility, business agility, project agility, is a great concept and have been used for decades without the “trendy name”. Project Manager needs to be agile when necessary and firm when it is essential. In other words, the great project managers are those who believe in Adaptive Project Management. Those who have the expertise and competence to know when to be agile or firm, when to use a hammer or a screwdriver, when to use MS Project or Primavera, etc.

However, Agile, well maybe all we do here is to refer you to this previous post and videos.

In conclusion,

  • Do we need an Agile Project Manager? If pigs can fly, why not.
  • Is there an Agile Project Management? Maybe in LaLa land.

In order to have successful projects that deliver products to help organizations realize benefits, we need methods, tailored project management methods, that help us manage a project C2C, E2E. We need to support these methods with OPMS, organizational project management system, with the right level of governance, policies, guidelines, and organizational records. Let us get real, in the real world. If you want fantasy, go to Disney.

 

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