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I working for a high profile C-team member. He has a few success stories and big brands to his name. I have a lot of respect for this person. This person has recently come in and taken line management duties away from Scrum Masters/Project Managers and given them to senior developers. I'm not necessarily against the idea however the process in doing this may have changed the dynamics of the tech function in that the Project Manager (Scrum Masters) perceived to have been undermined (opinion).

So my question:

As a Project Manager, how do I deal with senior developers who think they know more and undervalue the PM function? (often going above my head)

  • You've been demoted while retaining your PM title. The de facto leader is someone else now. Your duties are now more of a PMA or PM coordinator. – David Espina Jun 9 at 20:08
  • It does feel like this sometimes. But the business seems keen to keep hold of me? – Breezecom Jun 10 at 5:33
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Neither Project Manager nor Scrum Master is normally a line-manager function. I don't know who came up with the idea of doing that in the first place, but it seems that mistake has been corrected.

So as you are no longer the boss by hierarchy, you need to ask and answer yourself the following question: how does the team profit from my work. How does my work improve the result of our work as a whole.

If you can answer that question and make the rest of the team see that truth, you will have their respect. And their respect is all you need to be a good project manager or Scrum Master.

In an ideal world you already have that, but I will take a guess and say the fact that you were boss meant that you decided things based on "I'm boss, we do it my way". That time is gone. You will need to prove your worth to the project just as anybody else on the team now.

As a developer let me say this: a good PM is worth it's weight in gold and I don't envy them for their jobs, even if better paid. I don't want to do that job and I'm happy as pie if someone does it very well. If that person has a bigger car or house or bank account... god bless, they earned it. However, mediocre PMs are a drag on a project and something that can seriously hinder a projects success. As I said I hate that job, but I will do it if I see that the actual PM is a dud and I could do his job better in half the time. So what you need to do is make sure you are in the first category. Do a good job. Developers will love you for it. If they don't... think about the question of what you bring to the table. How would their life be harder or more inconvenient if you were not there. If their life is not better when you work, then something is wrong.

  • I agree with everything you have said! But what if I turned the scenario on its head and said that the SM has always managed with humility and the newly empowered line managers are unsure of the boundaries of their decisions. i.e. now we are the masters of our own destiny we don't need to break down stories into tasks, even if we do we don't need to stick to them, we have made a commitment to a sprint but this other thing is more exciting so I will do that instead, I'll promise the senior boss that it will get done and when it doesn't Ill take a step back and let the PM clean up – Breezecom Jun 11 at 8:55
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It's important to understand that power is derived from the PM's position in the organization and the PM's personality. Project leadership is a process by which a PM can direct, guide and influence the behavior of the team and participants towards accomplishing the project objectives.

I think it's best to develop a plan to enhance your power to influence the outcome of the project. In your new structure, you need to change your leadership style to more of a negotiation style of leadership with your functional managers, and more of a participative and collaborative style of leadership with the project team members.

  • "develop a plan to enhance your power to influence the outcome of the project" - Where do I start? – Breezecom Jun 10 at 10:49

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