Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Project Manager as a Team member in a matrixed Enterprise Organization

The following idea is based on experience in several non-perfect matrix environments where the concept of complete organizational change could take many years (or never happen).

Does this mean we should simply give into the environment or should work with the existing culture and environment?

I am not recommending any changes to the way Scrum (or your Framework of choice) works, but am opening up an "idea" for people to consider.

I was recently chatting with someone about the role of a Project Manager in an enterprise Scrum roll-out.

Firstly, let me say that having a Project Manager "run" a Scrum Project is something I do not feel comfortable with if the organization is trying to work towards Agility. Let's get that clear right now. That being said, I've helped some organizations (large matrix ones) to introduce Scrum into their environments (including values and principles, not just process) and Scrum has worked out well for them.

I still hear from team members that have yearly votes about continuing with Scrum as part of their internally created process.  They work their own way and continue with Scrum, don't have PMs running their projects, and decide for themselves how they will organize and work. The organization has made sufficient adjustments to allow this to continue.

In Scrum we build a Cross-Functional team of people who can deliver a potentially deliverable working increment.  What if the organizational structure does not support this?

Do we bang our heads against the wall, or worse (in my opinion); just capitulate and change the framework immediately because our jobs as coaches are on the line?

Yes, we are trying to change the way things get done.  However, in an enterprise, this takes time.  What is not often discussed is that the original organization changes slower than the agile teams will.  This will clearly create conflict. 

Remember, this slow organizational change is likely part of the "Why" you are there in the first place. See my post about "Why" here.

The Agile manifesto says "People and interactions over processes and tools".

Well, let me remind everybody....  Project Managers are people too!

They have some very unique personality traits and skills that can benefit their teams (especially in Matrix organizations).

So, let's keep this post simple;

What would happen if a Project Manager was on a team as a Team Member using their unique skills and abilities to maneuver, build relationships in the matrix organization?   The team will have tasks that involve things like "Get marketing to review the content".  It's not really an obstacle for the SM to deal with.

Remember, the Project Manager (in a traditional organization) has the "keys" to be able to visit marketing in the first place.

I have worked with a team having a PO, SM, and simply "Team members".  One of those team members was a "person who was a Traditional Project Manager in their past life" who has the rights and privileges in the organization of a Project Manager.

For some of you, you may say "No, everything has to change".  I say, Yes, ideally, things will change over time. To just say "All project managers must go", is removing a very important skill-set and personality type (I'm not talking about filling out charts) that will be missed in an organization in transition.

To expect the organization to just "click the switch" and have other parts of an enterprise org respect the role of the SM immediately is not likely to work effectively.

In the scenario I describe, the SM, PO and Team all work together (as expected).  In a matrix org though, the PM could be a team member and add REAL VALUE during a transformation.  In the process, the PM would also learn some new skills and ways of thinking which could benefit them, the team and the company in the future.

You could still be following the Scrum framework (it is not specifically defined as to who can be on a Scrum Team, just that they need to be able to deliver an increment and be a self-directed team).

This of course would be transitional, but I may be realistic to expect it to be YEARS in the making as the organization changes to not need the traditional PM role as much and as walls and silos are broken down.

Not realizing there needs to be a half way to me at least seems like you are setting up your transformation to fail right from the start.  Enterprises don't just turn on a dime. This is why they need a way to "transition" to a new way of thinking.

So, consider an experiment; What if you just did Scrum the way it was designed and allowed the Project Manager to take on tasks on behalf of the team as a full-fledged member of the team.  They would not have the ability to assign tasks. They would however be extremely helpful and not feel like an outcast.

As long as you are considering the Agile Manifesto and guide yourselves by Scrum's values, you can't go wrong.  Scrum's values are...
  • Commitment
  • Courage
  • Focus 
  • Openness
  • Respect
As you consider this idea...

Remember, Project Managers are People too!

Mike Caspar


WHY are you trying to work towards Agility post - Link here
Agile Manifesto -
Scrum Values -