Are there Project Managers in Scrum? No (but…)

Scrum has only 3 roles: Product Owner, ScrumMaster and Implementer.

Who is responsible for ‘the project’?  Well, that would be the whole Team.

What do we do with George, who was a Project Manager (PM)?  Well, we have to talk to George.  Maybe he would make a great ScrumMaster or a great Product Owner.  Or something else.

The ones who like removing impediments tend to make good SMs. The ones who like managing requirements often make good POs.

Several comments.

1. Some of the best agile people I know were Project Managers once.  (I was one, once.)

2. It is very common for the term ‘project manager’ to imply that person is ‘responsible’ for project success.  In agile or at least Scrum, the PM is not responsible for the project.   The whole Team is responsible. Together.  Each person in a slightly different way, but they win together or they lose together.  Among other things, this changes their motivation as a team.

Now, the PM knows that only the Team has success.  Sometimes the Team understands this. But as soon as we call someone ‘PM’, then a manager outside the Team starts talking as if this is George’s project to win or lose. It starts to hurt things; it hurts the chances for success. So, I suggest avoiding the term completely.

It is a nice idea (for some managers) that one person could be responsible.  It might make another manager’s work easier.  And in some areas, it is true that one person is solely responsible. But in our knowledge work, the whole Team must contribute, the whole team is responsible.

3. Some PMs have years of experience trying to drive a ‘team’ with their task list. They have their command-and-control ways, some of them. I think this way of working is wrong, both as a way to treat people, and as a way to succeed. In any case, it is not what we do in Scrum.  Many PMs cannot break these habits. So, watch out for that.

4. Scrum is a simple framework. Scrum does not try to give the Team everything that the Team will need to succeed.  (Each situation is different, and Scrum is too modest to assert that it knows everything for every situation.)  The Team is expected to add things to Scrum, appropriate things for their work and their situation.

In this regard, many PMs have dealt with and studied these ‘possible things to add’.  So, often George is good at suggesting these things. And other things can be suggested by other disciplines too.

5. Some companies still have PMOs after getting started in Scrum. (PMO means Project Management Office, although I find each PMO group…usually several PM types grouped together…each PMO group may be run quite differently.)  This may not be the best pattern, but it is not clear that this is a terrible pattern. It might be a necessary pattern for a temporary period.  In any case, some PMs can still work in a PMO group, and this does not seem to be totally contrary to Scrum, or to clearly hurt Scrum teams.  It may even be useful. (smile)

6. Most of the duties of the old PM are divided in Scrum amongst the PO, the SM, and the Team.

7. Should we put George (a PM) on a Team that already has a PO and a SM?  And give George mainly his old PM duties?  No, it seems unlikely this will work well. George will be in unnecessary conflict with the PO and the SM. While there may be a few other duties, they are not enough to keep George busy full-time.

Maybe your company has a system that demands that all Teams (including the agile teams) comply with waterfall reporting.  Maybe there is enough work for George (the former PM) as a ‘pig’.  Maybe, for a while.  We ought to get away from that waterfall or legacy reporting as soon as possible.

8. Could Scrum Teams in large organizations need help doing ‘project management reporting’ and such?  Yes. And George may have a role to assist several teams in handling this work.  In this case, we might say George is a ‘chicken’ to several teams.  Still, I would hope most of this kind of work would go away with time.

Help enough?  Questions?  Comments?



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