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The Agile Project Manager

By Rubin Jen
April 12, 2023

It used to be “Scope, Time and Cost”.  The new words are “Outcomes, Value and Change”.  For many of us, project management has just gone through a major paradigm shift. VUCA (Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) isn’t a theory anymore, it’s our everyday project environment now.  With the advent of different delivery methods, customers and stakeholders have gotten used to making more changes than ever before.  I remember getting my PMP back in 2002 and being instructed over and over to prevent changes from even being raised!  Now we’re in a time where changes are not only acceptable, but they’re also expected!

So, is the answer for everyone to just use Agile methods? Well, it’s not quite that simple.  It’s easy enough to just pick up the Scrum Guide, obtain a certification and just try doing it.  And you’d have some success.

There’s a phrase out there: “Doing Agile vs Being Agile”. It’s used to describe organizations and groups who are using the ceremonies and artifacts, but not much else.  You hear from many in the Agile world – “it’s a mindset shift”. This is absolutely true.  But nobody ever tells you how to do this.  And it’s hard to break our way of thinking that we’ve had for so long. Just the other day in one of my classes, a participant asked me how he could avoid scope creep in his Agile project.

So, it’s not just about doing things differently, we also need to think differently in order to be successful in this new environment.

What are these new things we need to think about?

We need to prioritize value.  Now, I’m one of the first to roll my eyes when I hear this phrase, it’s been so overdone.  But it’s a valid statement.  If we could increase the benefit of the project by introducing a change, but it would cause a 20% overspend and a month’s delay, would we accept it with open arms?  Or would we vigorously oppose it because it affects how we view project success?

We need to champion change.  I’m not talking about project change; I’m referring to accepting the changes once our project’s final deliverable has been delivered to the customer.  How can we facilitate so that the end product is usable and beneficial? For the customer to realize the project’s benefits and outcomes?

And we can enable the team to unlock their maximum potential.  If they have the capability, an empowered team can operate even better than a high-performance team.  This may require new interpersonal skills from us, such as coaching, mentoring and servant leadership.

There are many other ways of thinking I’d add to this list, but this is a good starting point.  It’s our journey to becoming “Agile Project Managers”. No, I’m not referring to just using Agile practices, but being flexible and adaptable.   And that will lead our organizations to achieve true business agility.

About the Author

Rubin Jen

Senior Trainer, International Institute for Learning, Inc.

Rubin Jen is Senior Trainer at IIL and a thought leader in the Agile and project management community. He has written books and articles, and has delivered coaching and project management training and knowledge in Agile practices, leadership, and project management core skills to thousands of professionals worldwide. Ruben has served with PMI Chapter Board of Directors.

Rubin has over 25 years of experience and success in project, program, and portfolio management, strategic planning, change management, continuous improvement, and Agile transformation across multiple industries.

Rubin Jen, Author, Headshot

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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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