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And Now You Are Just a Project Manager

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You’ve seen the job description:

Project Manager / ScrumMaster
- Must have knowledge of traditional project management
- CSM preferred
- PMP nice to have

These are becoming more and more common as of late, and typically posted by 3rd party recruiters working on behalf of large enterprise organizations.

Project Manager / ScrumMaster

What they fail to mention in the description is how once their agile adoption fails, you’ll be a full time Project Manager.

That “slash” in the job title is not an insignificant one.

It means they are asking you to perform 2 distinct roles, and more importantly it means they are riding the fence in regards to their agile initiative. I’ve seen Project Manager / ScrumMaster candidates go through an interview process where their Project Manager duties were not even discussed! Yet when the agile adoption fell apart, it did so at such an accelerated pace that it would make your head spin. You need to be prepared for this possibility (probability).

For example, I’ve witnessed project plans being forced onto teams even after they’d shown amazing progress during the agile adoption. Velocity, while certainly not perfect, is the best measure I know of for tracking an agile team’s growth. This specific team had matured from single digit velocity, to lower 30′s in the span of just a few months.

This all came to a crashing halt once management smacked them with a plan that illustrated every projected task in glorious gantt chart fashion. The Project Manager / ScrumMaster was given an ultimatum to deliver the plan to the team, or basically lose his job.

In doing so, the following events occurred within the week:

1. Daily Standups went from 100% participation to 25% participation. Why you ask, how could that happen so quickly? The team members, especially the software engineers, refused to show up citing the fact that they’d “send their updates in via email” because based on the gantt chart, you already knew what they were working on in detail.

2. Retrospectives ceased to exist. Why talk about things you can improve upon when under a tight deadline?

3. People fell back into command and control. They stopped viewing the Project Manager / ScrumMaster as a ScrumMaster because he had subjected them to a very waterfall-like document. It is hard enough to play this dual role without this additional baggage.

Months and months of work unraveled in less than a week. The Project Manager / ScrumMaster was called into a meeting, and accused of neglecting all of his Project Manager duties. “Do you know what a Project Manager is? I should have asked you in the interview”.

So how can this have been prevented?

To be honest I’m not sure that it could have, at least not solely by the Project Manager / ScrumMaster (now Project Manager). Any agile adoption needs support, and a great deal of patience. If you apply to such a position in the future, it is important that you know what you are walking into.

To some extent, I’m starting to believe the Agile Project Manager role is less of a risk than Project Manager / ScrumMaster.


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