That Dang Project Manager Hat

I haven’t been a Project Manager in title for, well, ages.  As a coach or Scrum Master, I should have shed that hat long ago.  And, I did(ish).  The problem is it’s still around and, when things need to GET DONE,  somehow that hat just turns back up….on my head.  Now, the good news is, I realize it and can quickly yank it off and stuff it under my chair but, seriously, I wish it would go away.  It won’t ever go completely away though and I’m still learning how to keep it firmly on the shelf.

So, why did it find its way on my head?  The group I am coaching wants to GET STARTED!  It’s awesome the excitement they all have.  They are eager, after months and months of talking, to get to work.  And, they want to run it Agile and they are leveraging SAFe.  So, before the December productivity vortex hit, we all looked at the calendar and they identified dates for their Quickstart (3 day event for everyone on the release train).  This means, there is a LOT to do.  And, the month of December is pretty much shot so, there’s about 3.5 weeks to get everything accomplished so the train is ready to leave the station.  But, there’s also a Holiday in there AND, most awesome of all, snow storms.  WOOT!

The team of people I am lucky enough to work with right now are amazing.  A massive can-do attitude.  They have overcome illness, broken down cars, two snow storms, children’s illnesses, broken pipes (for 4 people!) and a host of other things way out of their control.  They have all come together, rolled their sleeves up, opened their minds and have focused on getting ready.  They have trained, collaborated, learned, been challenged, formed as a team and had fun.  Honestly, it has been amazing to see and be a part of.  There is absolutely NOTHING this group of people can’t accomplish.  As a coach, this is heaven.  As a PM, I cannot stop thinking about all of the logistics and coordination and organization that needs to happen.  It’s not that there aren’t people working on those things.  They are.  Will it all get done?  Probably.  If something doesn’t get done, will it matter (really matter)?  Probably not.

Coach me:  ALL the right ingredients are there.  The people and the experience are what matters.

PM me:  I need to make certain there are enough post-its, flip charts, sharpies and who is getting red yarn?

Coach me:  These people will adjust.  What matters is their mentality and how they come together through this first event.

PM me:  How can they possibly come together if there aren’t enough sharpies and flip chart markers?!  And, who is printing the hand-outs?  Wait – do we even HAVE a final head count yet?

Coach me:  These guys have it.

PM me:  They have everything except the awesome colored, smelly markers.  They NEED those.

Coach me:  Shut up, PM.

PM me:  Will do – as soon as I have every minute of the day plotted out and accounted for….and confirmation on the sharpies.

So, for all of you former PMs out there who are transitioning to Scrum Master, your PM hat is never really gone.  You just have to recognize when it’s there, on your head, and take it off.  I bet, over the next 8 days, I’ll be taking that sucker off multiple times daily and apologizing to people for continuously asking them if they are certain we will have enough sharpies.

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3 thoughts on “That Dang Project Manager Hat

  1. It always surprises me what a dirty word “project management” is among scrum masters and coaches. Yet, I can’t see how scrum can ever scale to the enterprise without a healthy relationship with project management. So much of the case for the role of the Scrum Master and Product Owner has been based on showing the inefficiencies of project management. However, the current limited scope of the role of the Scrum Master (being mainly focused on the day-to-day internal working of the team) and the over-reliance on the role of the Product Owners for interfacing with the outside world of the organization are not positioning scrum to be able to handle the increasingly complex challenges of large “enterprise level” integration projects. How long will take before scrum masters and coaches will come to the realization that to scale scrum to the enterprise requires incorporating the processes and skills that project management field has honed over many decades of experience.

    Samad Aidane
    GuerrillaProjectManagement.com

    • Hi Samad – Thanks for your comment. I am not menaing to imply – at all – that Project Management is “dirty”. I have a been a PM far longer than I have been an Agile anything. I am trying to communicate the challenge I face keeping true to what MY role is as a coach which isn’t at all the same as that of a PM. I don’t believe the scope of a Scrum Master is as limited as you imply above and I also value the role of a PM in the enterprise. That said, the role of a PM in an Agile environment does shift focus. There’s value to the decades of experience Agile and Project Management have both honed over the last several decades – we can always leverage strengths, learnings and tools from each to benefit the organization and our teams. I love the passion I hear in your comment and would like to extend an invite to you to share them on this blog as a guest. Perhaps the start of recognition/realization you’re looking for finds an outlet or audience here? Again, thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to read and share your thoughts. Kind Regards – Valerie

      • Valerie,

        Thank you so much for the opportunity to continue the conversation about this topic. I have misunderstood the reason you were a bit reluctant to put on your PM hat but now I understand. I still believe that there is a general allergic reaction among scrum teams to project management as a role. I appreciate the fact that you see value in leveraging the PM experience – with a different focus for scrum. I would like the opportunity to dialogue more about why I think that project management is more valuable as in interface between the scrum team and the enterprise in ways that needs to be more effective than the product manager in the context of enterprise integration projects. Especially in cases of the one-time product owner who does not have the benefit of the experience of managing multiple integration projects. Of course this does not mean that all project managers have this type of experience or that there are not product owners who can outperform project managers in this context. The key question is how do you develop the planning and execution skills needed to handle the complex nature of the interface between the scrum team and the enterprise. This is where I see the biggest challenge for Scrum scaling to the enterprise level large integration change initiatives. Looking forward to continuing the conversation.

        Samad Aidane
        GuerrillaProjectManagement.com

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