Posted by: kerrywills | June 22, 2018

Agile and Project Management

I have been working in Project Management for over twenty years and have spent the last five years learning about and working in a scaled agile environment. As I work with many agile enthusiasts I hear references that suggest there is no project management in a scaled agile model. I have three fundamental hypotheses that I want to test with this group.


1. There is the concept of a project in scaled agile

Because scope decomposes down to the teams and information aggregates up in a scaled agile manner, key information can be captured at a high level. Portfolio Epics align to strategic themes, contain a business case and span multiple teams. Because of the need for Corporations and senior stakeholders to understand progress against strategic work the Portfolio Epic becomes the natural aggregation point of value realization, scope and progress. So,the concept of a project evolves from being a discrete set of scope that gets funded to an aggregation of value, scope and funding which can be used for stakeholder communications.


2.There is a need for project management competencies

So while there is no PM role in scaled agile, there is still a need for PM principles and competencies. First, because of the increasing complexity of delivery and the subsequent need to connect dots across teams there is a need for a role to do that. Secondly, if we drill into the competencies required for the key roles (e.g. Release Train Engineer, Scrum Master and even Product Owner) I would argue that the competencies required for success are the same as the competencies required for a consultative PM (see my last book). These include negotiation, facilitation, influencing and diligence.


3. There is a need for PMO functions

While many of the operating models evolve in scaled agile, there is still a need for the PMO functions although I submit many of them evolve. For example, financial management is no longer about tracking specific project costs so much as funding capacity for persistent teams. Scope management evolves into intake facilitation and prioritization/sequencing and formal change management becomes part of the process of prioritizing.


I have many more thoughts and am considering writing book #6 on this topic so I wanted to test the waters with this group. The summary is that it is not PM OR Agile so much as both evolving together. Please post comments on my hypotheses and we can iterate based on feedback (see how I merged agile and PM principles in that request).


  1. I think you are spot on I serve all the roles you list and I feel my project management background makes me a better scrum master, product owner and STE.

  2. No matter what methods you use, a matrixed organization requires managers at the points where the dotted lines converge. We typically call these folks “project managers,” and the management functions that they perform are still necessary as long as there are decision makers more than one level up from the individual contributors. The alternative is to hold the line managers accountable for all of the management functions, and I doubt most of them want that added to their plates, unless all of the people who will work on a project already report to them.

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