When I look back on my career, there is one thing for certain and that is that it all started when I entered the role of project manager to build out a new intranet at a Fortune 100 company.  I am now an agile coach and trainer at LitheSpeed and couldn’t be happier. But, it doesn’t mean that everything I did for years as a project manager was thrown out the window.  It’s crazy to think that I was valued as a person that could manage a body of work to ensure that it delivered and not think that all of those traits and skill sets don’t apply anymore as a scrummaster, agile coach, or agile project manager. It’s quite the opposite.  My colleague Tom Shieves and I discussed this very topic and are both excited to the Harrisburg University Agile Project & Portfolio Summit (May 9-11) as a great forum to chat and learn about this very topic.  

Harrisburg Agile Summit

Yes, there are many distinctions between a traditional project manager role and an agile project manager or scrummaster, but there are things that you can pull from your PM bank that will actually help in making your role in an agile world successful.

Let’s look at the Agile Manifesto to see how we can use our PM skills to play more of a scrummaster or agile project manager role.

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools – As a former PM, I found that I needed to use my organizational skills to promote my scrum team to talk to each other. No more emailing back and forth. I started to help team members think as a team not individuals. When the developer was done coding, he/she just doesn’t hand it off to the tester. I encouraged developers and testers to sit together rather than following a traditional waterfall process of phases.

Working software over comprehensive documentation – My role in the agile world is to now create value for our customers. I had to shift my way of thinking around seeing value as hitting milestones/dates or phase gates, to delivering something useful to the customer. That is a big shift for teams and I needed to use my project management skills to help the team think differently.  This is something that definitely takes an organized person to help shepherd.

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation – This piece I see as Collaboration, in general, over contract negotiation. I remember a stand up with a team that laughed at me when I asked that all team members sit together and work on code no matter what vendor they work for. There were contracts in place that prevented vendors from seeing what each of them were working on to ensure they protect their intellectual property. WHAT?!?!? How collaborative is that? This was not something that I personally could not change, but it was definitely something that I brought to the attention of my agile executive champion within my organization over and over. If the company was serious about changing the way they work, then the structure of the contracts needed to be changed. I definitely think the Project Manager in me, that likes to GET STUFF DONE, came out in that specific scenario.

Responding to change over following a plan – This one deserves a whole post.  More on PM and the Agile Manifesto to come, stay tuned.

-Beth Wong

Join Beth at the Harrisburg University Agile Project & Portfolio Summit and register now for the event-sponsored Certified ScrumMaster Training and Leading SAFe 4.0.