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How Project Managers Can Stay Relevant in the Agile World

How Project Managers Can Stay Relevant in the Agile World

Agile emphasises that self-organizing teams have a greater chance of success. Self-organizing teams collaborate and communicate as a group to drive work forward and decide what to focus on next. Some frameworks discuss how roles like product owner, product manager, and scrum master contribute to making that happen by ensuring the cross-functional team is aligned with the product/project vision and team members work cooperatively to advance in the right direction.

In a typical traditional structure, the project manager’s duties may overlap with all three positions and include reporting and logistical tasks as well. At various points during a project, dependent on the scenario and necessity, project managers flex their skill sets to perform what is necessary to complete the task at hand.

But what happens to the project manager as firms move towards agility and the product owner, team facilitator/Scrum master, and team members perform their roles? Will the project manager no longer be required? Frankly, even if that does happen in some projects, in larger initiatives, the teams may want to have a project manager to handle logistics, coordination, and other ad-hoc tasks, which can be quite overwhelming yet are important for the team.

So, does that imply that the Project manager role might someday be limited to a few administrative and logistical tasks only? Additionally, are we aware that with all the focus on agile, processes and tools must also advance in agility to support agile ways of working? Most administrative and logistical duties may no longer be necessary as time goes on (or may be drastically reduced from what they once were). Many individuals are left to question, “Can project managers be relevant in a world that is increasingly becoming more agile? And if so, how?”

Before continuing, it is important to note that project managers are typically what we refer to as “generalising specialists (with T-shaped, E-shaped, and comb-shaped skills)” making them open to a variety of opportunities based on their qualifications and preferences, both within and outside of their teams.

So, where can project managers go to stay relevant in an agile world?

Project managers with technical credentials might consider joining a multidisciplinary team. Some people with a passion for business would consider pursuing product management. Others with agile and servant leadership qualities might take on the role of scrum master.

Those who choose to remain as project managers must keep in mind that ongoing development is crucial to align with the shifting demands for talent and updated job descriptions. Project managers, like many other professionals, have a lot on their plates. To keep up with the changing workplace and stay ahead of the curve, they must proactively work on themselves. The key to achieving that is investing in cultivating an Agile mentality, concentrating on what really matters (Value), and effectively utilising the “power” in their skills.

Project managers well versed in agile can flex their diverse skill sets to best align with stakeholders and the project’s needs, foster collaboration, and practice psychological safety. Honing these skills will enable project managers to leverage collective wisdom, better recognise issues, prepare for risks, and overcome bottlenecks at different levels – thereby optimising the flow of work within teams, between groups, and across the organisation to deliver value.

In fact, to fill all the project management-related positions anticipated to become available by 2030, PMI’s most recent Talent Gap Report predicts that approximately 2.3 million workers will be required annually. Additionally, many organisations are looking to reconfigure their businesses and ways of working to stay ahead of the competition because of the increased emphasis on agility. Therefore, the need for specialists with experience who can guide firms through ambiguity, complexity, and disruption will be greater than ever.

In conclusion, project talent will continue to be in demand. With the right exposure, experience, and upskilling, project managers can unlock their potential to be true changemakers and a champion of change in the quest to attain organisational agility.

About the Author

Monika Muddamshetty

Monika Muddamushetty is a seasoned leader in the delivery and Agile space, dealing with people and processes to deliver improved outcomes across projects, programs, and portfolios, along with driving transformation, process automation, and re-engineering initiatives. In her current role, she heads the Agile Centre of Excellence (CoE) driving the journey to Agile ways of working.

She has served as Director on the Board of PMIPCC (Project Management Institute Pearl City Hyderabad Chapter) for five years, and currently volunteers with the PMI South Asia Champions program and other activities across the region to give back to the project management community.

Monika is an engineer by education. Her professional certifications include Project Management Professional (PMP®), Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP®), Disciplined Agile Senior Scrum Master (DASSM®), SAFe® Program Consultant (SPC), and Lean Six Sigma – Green belt amongst others.

Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.

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