When adopting Agile and moving away from waterfall what specifically changes in the day-to-day job duties of a PM? I'm interested especially in hearing from PMs who have made (or are in the process of making) the transition.

  • Bob, I'd like to take a swing at your question, I have some thoughts but I'm hoping you get some practicing PMs to respond first. Perhaps adding more tags may help and I see there are 5 pages to choose from. – Ken Clyne May 11 '11 at 5:43
up vote 7 down vote accepted

I've made the transition and helped others make the transition as well (with varying degrees of success :-)

High level changes:

  1. You will be more in a server role than a "captain of the ship role" (but you still have accountability and responsibility...)
  2. You will rapidly find your time administering things (e.g. tracking time sheets) goes down
  3. Your cross-department and team communication (face to face) will increase dramatically
  4. You will focus less on status and more on problems and risks
  5. You will spend much of your time talking to customers or Product Managers/Owners seeking involvement, clarification and information
  6. Your comfort level will go way down until you and your team really trust each other

Many of these are debatable. I know many people who will not let go of lots of the "old style" administration of a project even though the team doesn't find value in it and Agile methods don't readily support it (Earned Value is a great example of this) Also, there are Agile PM's who aren't that hands on with the team, so problem resolution and "obstacle removal" get pushed to other functions/people.

Specifics of the day to day activities are difficult to generalize but... (many of the below assume Scrum is your Agile method)

  1. You will attend a daily standup meeting with the team
  2. You will be sweating over the product backlog to make sure it is up to date
  3. You will spend some time looking at (and maintaining) the burn-up and burn-down charts
  4. You will be reviewing retrospective notes and coming up with suggestions for the team on improving their process
  5. You will be arranging customer review of the product being produced
  6. Hopefully you will be sitting with the team and listening to their discussions and using your experience to help with personal and interpersonal issues & obstacles

ymmv!

First, you may want to take a look at the very related question on a role of PM on agile projects.

Then the specific transition much depends on a type of projects you run. If you work on solution which you have full control over, like internal projects with no paying client outside the organization, you may end up in the point where there's no formal PM role in the project team. This would be classic example of implementing Scrum by-the-book. Often in such situations PM becomes a Scrum Master but it's a tricky solution as Scrum Master is more of a coach than a project leader. Another idea, and the better one, is to go toward Product Owner role although it's more about dealing with product than dealing with project. Either way Scrum distributes part of typical PM's duties over team.

The other type of projects is when you actually have some kind of external client and this client probably got used to run projects in more formal way. After all if the transition is a new thing for you it's probably a new thing for your clients as well. In this case the PM's most important role is to translate the way team works to the customer (the other way around too) and to fill any gaps there might be. These gaps would usually be more about formal side of project management as agile teams generally try to minimize it even though clients sometimes do expect quite a lot of formal artifacts. You can read more about such approach in the question about merging different PM approaches withing the same organization.

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