Why should companies be exploring full agility at product level instead of at project level – and what does this mean for project managers?
Markets and competition are evolving so fast while digital resources are enabling organizations to respond very quickly to changing demands.
This means delivering value faster in fortnightly, or maybe daily increments, with rapid feedback to adapt and learn almost instantly. This both changes the ways of working and also teaches organizations to not treat everything as a project. However, this also involves retaining the value of a number of project management skills and knowledge.
Why do project managers need to understand Scrum?
A project management approach can be used for change initiatives when there are “unknowns” but tends to work better when the “knowns” outnumber the “unknowns” so you can predict results and plan for them. If you can’t predict outcomes effectively, you need something based on faster feedback cycles.
Scrum – designed for product development and based on short cycles, Sprints lasting one month maximum – is a framework that covers the entire product lifecycle. The approach is about a self-organizing, collaborative team adapting continually to the needs of users and is based on fundamental values of commitment, courage, focus, respect and openness.
A key difference are the accountabilities: in PRINCE2®, the project manager is responsible for planning, monitoring and controlling; in Scrum it’s the Scrum team – they plan, monitor and control – and this raises their commitment and engagement.
Also, the Scrum Team’s working practices (versus PRINCE2 processes) emerge by doing and evaluating the work and adapting to create better ways of working given the context and the environment. Similar to PRINCE2, “managing” is an important skill the Scrum team members need; ensuring the business case remains viable, controlling risks, dealing with change and monitoring progress.
Project managers working with Scrum teams
Project managers do have many existing skills and knowledge that are useful to have within any Scrum Team.
For that to work well, a project manager can become a member of the team. Depending on the preferences of that person, the project manager can choose to take up the Product Owner role (“project manager” doesn’t exist in Scrum) to focus on optimizing value for the organization, or the Scrum Master role to focus on growing the team in self-organization and cross-functionality.
Alternatively, taking up a Development Team Member role is about working on the product itself. For example, supporting the team with documenting, testing, reviewing or maybe even to learn some building skills. Regardless of the role, this person can also support the Scrum Team through experience in planning, estimating, monitoring, and building a strong relationship between the team and all stakeholders.
This is not needed for all types of initiatives. For example, major infrastructure developments work better as projects with clearly-defined project managers because the “knowns” largely outnumber the “unknowns”. However, if an organization wants to move faster in more uncertain environments, it could better harness the skills of the project manager as an integrated member of the team.
Key project management skills and training to support Scrum teams
PRINCE2 remains a valuable certification to obtain project management skills and specific elements, such as the seven principles and themes which are still important in 2020. For example, the continued business justification principle ensures a product remains valid throughout its lifecycle. Also, the business case theme should be a way of showing ultimate value for the organization, presenting the product vision to stakeholders and what they can expect from an initiative.
Also, the guidance offers strategies for stakeholder interaction and emphasizes frequent insight demonstrating progress which senior management wants and needs to know about.
Particularly in these complex environments, it’s about identifying where the skills of the project manager are useful to deploy. And if the project manager is warm to the idea of changing ways of working there are great career options open to them as part of a Scrum Team or supporting the team from within the organization.
Read more AXELOS Blog Posts from Steven Denier
Making people and organizations Agile – PRINCE2 Agile
Workshop facilitation: a key skill of the agile project manager
The 4 key factors needed to make an agile project work
Standardize your project processes with checklists
My CPD Life
The top myths about PRINCE2® and agile methods.