Project Manager? No need in SCRUM any more …

Project Manager? Not known in SCRUM books – hence no need for it?!?!

SCRUM in books transports the idea of “You don’t need project managers any more”. Why is it so? Well, the roles in SCRUM books – product owner, SCRUM master, team – explicitly exclude a project manager.

The project manager’s work is shared across various roles:

  • The product owner manages the backlog, prioritizes the stories and creates release plans.
  • The SCRUM master “enforces” the mechanics of the process, organizes meetings and moderates them.
  • The team takes over the detailed planning sessions and estimations.

When we introduced SCRUM we really enjoyed getting rid of all all the structures and limitations of the project work. We arrived 100% in “agile”. During our SCRUM setup days we decided to move our “project managers” into “SCRUM master”. Now with their new very limited scope of “not breaking” the new process rules. All the other duties – gone!

The Break – Working on Epics

The new modell went all well until … we started our first epic. In waterfall days the epic was called project.

After some time SCRUM works very well organizing the software development. Mainly because the process SCRUM isn’t that hard to apply and everybody likes it – because it’s agile and simple. But the overarching business planing – looking beyond the daily SCRUM work … we lost it almost entirely.

Who does the prioritization work on which project – ahhh epic – we should work next? Is it the product owner? The VP product? The CEO? The whole management team? Who takes care of the resource conflicts arising automatically if you have scarce resources? Who detects those conflicts and escalates them? How do we deal with delays?

Quite some questions. A lot of companies switching from traditional – thoroughly controlled processes to the agile modell encounter comparable issues, we learned.

How did we solve it? Well, we started to recognize that SCRUM is only one piece of the jigsaw puzzle. Furthermore, you need to work on your agile organization. Not only product development and product management are customer of your SCRUM teams. A lot of topics – owned e.g. by online marketing or customer care center – need attention as well.

In the end, when multiple departments within our organization are involved in work we started to include project managers again. They have an inter-department communication and coordination role. So, for us project managers did not disappear entirely, they showed up again in the context of strategic projects with a slightly different role.

Lessons learned?

  • SCRUM is good to organize the product development part of your agile organization
  • There is more than just SCRUM to become truly agile
  • In an agile organization you better have roles like project managers

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