Lightbulb: Agile *has* no project managers

So, I broke down and took one of the online courses offered at my work on Project Management basics.  I kept hearing domain language from managers, former project managers, and true project managers from our other (non-software) function.  I wanted some info on their thoughts and methodology.

So, during that, I had a light-bulb moment:  Agile software has no project managers.

Seriously.  Back-up and read that sentence.  They don't exist, and if that gives you the heebie-jeebies, keep reading.  If you have agile and project managers, then you're doing it wrong, at least as nearly as I can tell.

Taken from my notes on the course, this is the role of the project manager.
  1. Leader —> Clear understanding of direction & purpose, from customer or client perspective of its value.  You have a sense of ownership.
  2. Manager —> Administrative functions affecting time, budget, scope, and quality.
  3. Facilitator —> Help the team get its work done.  Create an environment conducive to work, meeting team individual work styles.
  4. Mentor —> Provide guidance to others, to help with their professional development.
Lastly, the program describes the dedicated stakeholder list of the project, naturally with the Project Manager first:
Project Manager: Responsible for successful completion of project. Manages activities of the project, leads project team, communicates with stakeholders. (emphasis mine)
That made me gag just a little.  How is some dude who can't code responsible for the ultimate outcome of a creative endeavor.  Seems analogous to congratulating Picasso's building superintendent for how good the paintings out of his workshop were.  O_o.

No agile methodology has a project manager per my awareness.  You do have a project team that takes ownership of maintaining direction and purpose through engagement, deals with its own administrative functions in cooperation with whatever minimal management input is required, works with others to remove roadblocks, and mentors its own members to be developers, not managers, or project managers, or whatever else you want to call them.  

It *can* work, but the second you cede ultimate responsibility to another party (a manager, a project manager), people lose the "skin in the game" feel that makes startups or other such enterprises exciting (and productive), and you hobble your Agile implementation.

As ever, I'm profoundly naive about these matters, but it did at least spark some recognition about why Agile has a tough go in many organizations.  If you're looking for some "fatherly" figure whom you trust to telephone you status reports, agile isn't for you.  Go back to wasting reams of paper and money on your old processes while you get disrupted from other people who have it sorted.

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