Tuesday, September 24, 2013

#PM Flash Blog – What does project management mean to me ?

As part of #PMFlashblog, I am excited to share a pragmatic view of state of Project Management in the IT industry. This article is about “What does project management mean to me ?”

The tasks related to Project Management (PM) haven’t changed much since the last two decades. I have been in the industry since the last 17 years and seen both Agile and Waterfall era. I see that at a broader level most of the PMs effort is spent towards staffing projects, invoicing and reporting. However, a key observation has been that PMs are no more the center of attraction in Agile projects!

I am sure you would have heard about the Iron Triangle. Most of the projects I have across have some constraints of Scope, Resource or Schedule. Most of the time the Scope keeps increasing but the cost, budget and Schedule remain the same. During these situations, we agilists keep saying this is the wrong way of doing things and we need freedom, flexibility and sustainability. Guess what, this is when stakeholders and business people introduce Project Managers to “get things done”


For me, the Project Management is all about delivering what the customer wants in challenging environments. I have consciously tried avoiding the typical Agile terms like “Business value” or the “Customer value”. The reason being many a times the stakeholders or the business people themselves have tremendous constraints and demands from the investors that they ignore the real “value”. During these constraining situations, they want someone to “Get things done” rather than talk about “Values and Principles”.

Project management is all about “Getting things done” in complex and constrained environment, and whoever has the ability ends up becoming a project or a program manager. Since the PM work involves handling difficult stakeholders leading to a lot of stress,and this role is not for faint hearted. As the PMs need to be strong willed, and their focus is on “Get things done”, they end up becoming the bad cops all the time.

During the waterfall era, Project Managers were the final authority in deciding the fate of the project. Whether estimating projects, staffing or handling budgets. They always used to steal the thunder. With the popularity of Scrum, the center of gravity around projects has moved out of PMs. In Scrum projects, theoretically the PM tasks are split between the team and the Scrum Master, but the ground reality is, most of it is still managed by the Scrum Masters.

During early days of Agile, there were debates challenging the role of a PM in Agile projects, however, now it has become a reality that PMs are needed to handle the “admin” tasks. The prime reason being, they know how to “get things done” in any situation. Large companies implementing complex Agile projects still have dedicated project managers, but they don’t interfere much with day to day running of projects.

Here are the common things I have observed with all the project managers. I am sure if you visit this list and compare with your PMs, you might find most of them.

1. Experienced: They typically have a lot more industry experience as compared to rest of the team members

2. Delegators: They are very good at delegating the tasks to the team

3. C2 Style leadership: Command and control leadership style. It is very rare to see a PM who is like a servant leader.

4. They like meetings. At the drop of a hat, they schedule meetings and they have this uncanny ability to keep eyes open during post lunch meetings.

5. They are good at reporting. They can create very good power point templates, and spreadsheet reports. You just hand over them the data, and they know how to massage it before sharing it with their leaders.

6. Process neutral: Even though all the PMs still have a lot of affinity towards Waterfall brethren, they can adjust to any new process without losing waterfall thinking.

7. Crystal ball: All of them have some sort of crystal balls using which they get to hear all the gossips and rumors before you do.

Irrespective of whether PMs are the center of attraction or not, they know how to “get things done”.


Brian Leach said...

Your article is making think more about how project management changes when a team is using Scrum. It's an interesting question!

Toby Elwin said...

I like the theme of, "get things done". The challenge is to no confuse activity with accomplishment.

As you point: Scope keeps increasing but the cost, budget and Schedule remain the same. During these situations, we agilists keep saying this is the wrong way of doing things and we need freedom, flexibility and sustainability.

Right tool, right situation, right time might be the new iron triangle.

I appreciate the chance to read the post through the #pmFlashBlog community.

Thank you,