Top three rules for an Agile Project Manager

I had some interesting feedback on my post on the qualities on an Agile Project manager/father. I had one thought-provoking comment that asked whether the project manager is responsible for project vision.

Here was the comment from my brother. (we are descended from a long line of project managers) 🙂 (I’ve paraphrased it a little to protect the innocent.)

“A great Project Manager knows where we need to go, long before the rest of us. They actually seldom know how to get there. They rely on their teams, bringing out the greatness in us all. By creating the vision, and giving their teams critical portions of that vision.”

Although my brother is not as familiar with the Agile methodologies, much of the sentiment rang true. Although the Project Manager may know where to go, he does not have an idea on how to get there without his or her team. They rely on their team to bring out the greatness in each and every one of the team members. (including the Project Manager!)
Although I would suggest that one thought might be that the project manager should provide the entire vision and not just the critical portions of the vision. (The team should decide what is critical)  The team members then collaborate and contribute to that vision as they can. The team must all own the vision together. In fact, the Project Manager may know the initial vision only. I’m confident that the vision will then be updated and changed by the team as they learn more on the art of the possible for the project.
And all that thought about never settling for second best is hooey. Great project managers know which products need to be great, and which ones need to be “fit for purpose”. That vision, and the ability to enroll people in that vision, makes a great leader.”
I love this thought. I would stress this isn’t about a Project Manager anymore though. This is about any great team members. There is the critical ‘good enough’ competency. I think we have all been on projects where too much time has been spent on items with little value and not enough on items with great value. The truly great team members have a great sense of what good enough is. This skill is usually built up on the bones of past projects. But sometimes, people have an innate skill about this as well.
Of course all this is after consulting with the clients and acting on their true priorities.
So this brings me to the top three rules for an Agile Project Manager. If the Agile Project Manager does these three things, I have no doubt the project will be a success.
Three rules for an Agile Project Manager 
Team velocity – Ensure that the team is performing at their maximum efficiency. Remove any issues and roadblocks.
Client interaction – Ensure that the client interaction is maximized. Ensure that the team has communicated as much as possible with the client and that the current work always reflects the client’s priorities.
Deliver something personally – The Project Manager needs to have a role on the project in addition to Project Manager. Something, anything. They need to code, design,test, or analyze. (preferably all four) They need to understand the solution and be part of the solution. We need to stop having the Project Manager just have ownership over the Project and not the solution implemented.

Author: Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio is passionate about his work as the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba. Terry oversees the governance on Information Technology projects to make sure the most important projects are being worked on in a consistent and effective way. Terry also provides leadership on the customized Project Methodology that is followed. The Project Methodology is a equal mix of Prince2, Agile, Traditional, and Business Value. Terry strives to bring Brutal Visibility, Eliminating Information islands, Right Sizing Documentation, Promoting Collaboration and Role-Based Non-Consensus, and short Feedback Loops to Minimize Inventory to the Agile Project Management Office. As a fan of pragmatic Agile, Terry always tries to determine if we can deliver value as soon as possible through iterations. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Traditional and Agile approaches. Terry is a fan of AWE (Agile With Estimates), the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, and asking why?

3 thoughts on “Top three rules for an Agile Project Manager”

  1. I am new to this blog, but I think this is a great first post to read. With respect to your top three rules, I think you have hit on some pretty good ones.

    Meanwhile, I wonder about your intro to them, “If the Agile Project Manager does these three things, I have no doubt the project will be a success.” Specifically, I am thinking that “client interaction” does not sufficiently capture the political role that the agile PM (and really, any PM) needs to perform in “closing the deal”… ensuring that the client actually accepts delivery of the product.

    If you have a client who needs help accepting delivery, then the PM has to be able to make that happen as well.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: