Saturday, September 10, 2011

9 x 2 Things Agile Project Managers Do

I don't generally think of myself as a project manager, or agile project manager, although others have referred to me as that. "Project Enabler" is more how I see what I do. But recent events (Groupon acquires Obtiva), have caused me to start talking about the role and talking, of course, leads to thinking.

List-making is one technique for examining thoughts. I made a fairly long list of everything a project manager might have to do in the course of an assignment. I ran through that list a couple of times and got it down to 18 items that sum up what I think project management is all about.

The first 9 things are more concrete; easier to accomplish by following a book or template or checklist than the second 9. I've called the first set the "hard skills" 9. The second 9 activities are squishier; more dependent on experience and a gut-sense about people and situations; obviously, I've labelled them the "soft skills."

The "hard skills" 9
  1. Prepare and present status reports. Chair demonstrations and planning sessions.
  2. Create or identify effective visualizations of status and objectives. Know how and when to use them.
  3. Convene estimation sessions and document results. Transform estimates into feasible budgets and plans.
  4. Track velocity and maintain current projections of the project's likely progress.
  5. Schedule meetings and milestone events (UAT, releases, etc.). Insure that necessary staffing, equipment and information are in place.
  6. On-board new team members.
  7. Evaluate people.
  8. Coach people.
  9. Treat your team to fun and games.
The "soft skills" 9
  1. Set goals and vision for the team. Channel constructive feedback to your team.
  2. Monitor development progress & facilitate blockages. Know when your team doesn't know or have something it needs; help the team fill the gap.
  3. Convene team discussions on issues & get decisions agreed; help the team resolve conflicts.
  4. Nurture stakeholder confidence in the team.
  5. Proactively meet with clients to discuss their issues, goals and concerns.
  6. Deliver bad news and present possible solutions to clients & leaders. Help the client understand and control scope.
  7. Make tough decisions when everything is stalled. Prioritize work or requirements if needed (proxy product owner).
  8. Defend your team from abusive stakeholders and leaders. Maintain productive operational patterns and sustainable pace.
  9. Be a caretaker of the application's integrity & quality.