As the march towards broad Agile adoption in larger Enterprise companies continues, the implications for changing roles and responsibilities is significant. Companies have spent literally millions of dollars and decades training staff to master the skills and responsibilities of roles like Project Manager and Business Analyst. Scrum, the most widely adopted Agile process framework, suggests that much of what many Project Managers do each day is no longer necessary since these responsibilities will be absorbed by cross-functional Agile teams. Before we address the challenge of reconciling Scrum with Project Mangers let’s be sure we do a full accounting of the implication for “large-scale Agile” in the Enterprise.
Other roles that now face change when large companies consider broad, Enterprise Agile adoption include Business Analysts and QA professionals. OK, so we’re now up to at least three functional roles now clearly in line for some serious redesign: Project Managers, Business Analysts and QA professionals. Let’s not forget the fourth role change, the Product Manager. For those familiar with Scrum (today’s most popular Agile process framework), notice I did NOT say Product Owner, it turns out that Product Owner and Product Manager are likely to be two VERY different roles and require very different skills and life experience to execute successfully.
So let’s recap: Cross Functional Agile now mandates that we get a serious handle on the revised scope and responsibilities of Project Managers, Business Analysts, QA Professionals, Product Owners and last but not least-Product Managers… Wow! I don’t know about you, but just thinking about the work associated with this kind of broad change is enough to make even the most motivated change agent consider “status quo” as a viable option to broad Agile and Lean change.
As I indicated in my last article, the challenge I now worry most about is the pervasive attitude among Agile advocates and CxO’s that “Agile” needs senior management and leadership to avoid mandating change from the top. Why? Because, Agile “at scale” is about strategic, organizational redesign, NOT about simply building high performance software development teams. So while I completely agree that we don’t want or need senior management to impose decisions on how development teams should plan, build and test software systems and products, we must encourage CxO’s to step up and help conceive, design, and implement an organizational framework in which Agile will flourish and succeed.
So, back to my original question, “Does Agile mean we no longer need Managers?” For me it’s the wrong question. Instead, we should ask “How will the organization redesign itself and in what way will the current role of Project Manager (and many other important roles) change and evolve to support the operational and strategic model companies so desperately need? Asking this question requires that we have a clear vision and direction in which we are headed. That sounds like the responsibility of senior management. So, it turns out leadership still has a role in leading and providing Top-Down direction, especially when Agile Adoption is the focus.
More on this in future articles.