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Episode 294: The PM Role in a Lean and Agile World (Free)

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Cornelius and Cornelius

This Interview with Dave Cornelius was recorded at the PMI Global Congress 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona.

The project manager is a highly skilled knowledge worker who has received rigorous training and knowledge in the process of achieving a globally recognized certification. At the same time, in the lean and agile world, the project manager does not have an official role. The project manager’s role is distributed between the agile team members.

However, the knowledge and skills obtained through certification is transferable in the lean and agile organization. In a competitive business climate, all available brainpower must be present on deck to enable the organization to achieve enterprise agility and scale to meet customer, compliance, financial markets, internal opportunities, and competitive demands.

Dave Cornelius' paper, presentation and our interview evaluate the project manager role using the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) practice and centers on PM participation in the lean and agile transformation as a strategic, leading, or lagging PM.

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. 

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: Welcome back everyone! I am still at the PMI Global Congress 2014 in Phoenix obviously.

Podcast Interview

Cornelius Fichtner: And I'm still sitting next to Dave Cornelius!

Dave Cornelius: And I'm still hanging out with Cornelius Fichtner.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello again. Alright, our next topic that we want to speak about is your presentation that you're going to give here at the congress. Have you already given it?

Dave Cornelius: I've given this not at the congress but I'm giving it tomorrow morning at 10 AM.

Cornelius Fichtner: Here at the congress.

Dave Cornelius: Here at the congress.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay! So what is the title of your presentation?

Dave Cornelius: The title is the PM Role, The Project Manager's Role in a Lean and Agile World.

Cornelius Fichtner: And the reason for this is there is no official project management role in all the descriptions of Agile, right?

Dave Cornelius: That is true.

Cornelius Fichtner: So what is going to happen to me?

Dave Cornelius: You will need to learn to inspect and adapt.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay, inspect and adapt. Alright, so this is for all those project managers out there whose companies are thinking about changing to Agile and who may be a bit worried about what is going to happen to me? I'm a project manager. How am I going to fit into this Agile team, into this Agile and lean world, right?

Dave Cornelius: That's exactly it.

Cornelius Fichtner: Do they have to be afraid?

Dave Cornelius: I don’t think they have to be afraid if they're working in an enterprise model. As a matter of fact, I don’t even think they have to be afraid if it's a departmental model. The reality is there must be a transformation of the current thinking of the traditional project manager to where you become a coach and a facilitator in the process because guess what? The teams are self-organizing. We have very smart people who know exactly how to do their jobs, what they need as coaching in the process and for someone to remove impediments, things that are blocking the team from being successful.

Cornelius Fichtner: Isn't that something that most project leaders should actually already be doing today without even using Agile?

Dave Cornelius: That is the original intent of project management because the definition is the project manager is responsible for leading the team who provides value to the customer and that is a PMI® PMBOK definition of the role of the project manager, leadership not management.

Cornelius Fichtner: Right, okay! So my company is switching to Agile. The traditional role of project manager is going away. What's going to happen to me now?

Dave Cornelius: Well my concept is that there are 3 different roles that I look at. I said: The PM is a lagging PM.

Cornelius Fichtner: A lagging PM.

Dave Cornelius: A lagging PM.

Cornelius Fichtner: Somebody who comes behind.

Dave Cornelius: Explains the past.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay.

Dave Cornelius: It's thinking of the financial world, lagging indicators. Oh it's a leading PM which is leading indicators. And the other one is the strategic PM.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay.

Dave Cornelius: So you think of the lagging PM, their role is really a lot involved with gathering metrics. This is a role in Agile called a Scrum Master and the Scrum Master, his role is primarily responsible for making sure that the team is fully engaged in a process of Scrum but also removing impediments so that the team could be successful. And so they run a lot of the rituals.

Same thing as that saying: Hey that is a very lagging role. So this is something that a PM could do extremely well in. I think also as a product owner the person who's responsible for prioritizing work, interacting with stakeholders and the customer, project managers have those skills as well. I think that's another excellent opportunity for a project manager to step into and be successful in that context.

Cornelius Fichtner: What about the leading project management role?

Dave Cornelius: Well the leading role is more proactive where you're anticipating issues that may come up and you're getting ahead of the curve and you're working through solving those problems. It's in terms of setting up training, setting up workshop, making sure that you could get from the stakeholders involved early in the process. So the leading role is involved in that process of really trying to get ahead of the curve of some of the anticipated risk that may come along.

Cornelius Fichtner: And then you also have the strategic PM. What is the strategic PM doing?

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete PDF transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

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