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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Project Managers as Change Agents

Recently, when I was training on the agile project management framework with Scrum, one of the learners questioned why retrospectives are necessary after every sprint. In another isolated meeting, an underlying process challenge was identified by the Project Manager but a lessons-learned session never conducted. The project manager reasoned that the project is not completed to do a post-mortem. These observations underpin an important role of the project manager in waterfall or agile driven project to be a change agent.

Organizing the project is not just about conducting meeting, maintaining a project plan, or communicating status updates. A Project Manager has to under the larger holistic need of the purpose of the project – a vehicle for the organization to deliver a unique product or service. Whether such initiatives or research oriented, internal, or client facing, the project manager’s role is a supporting activity as Porter’s value chain approaches indicate. If there is a process change identified from one implementation of the project, then, such issues need to be escalated to address the gap so that another project benefits. The Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) captures this essence while saying, “Project management activities should be aligned with top-level business direction, and if there is a change, then project objectives need to be realigned. “ (2013, p. 40)

To accomplish this need to maintain the alignment, the lessons learned must be as frequently conducted and reported. For instance, think of a module in a program that is having an issue. If the issue is in the core library and is identified, fixing the issue helps all the modules that will leverage this common module. Similarly, if one project identifies a process gap, then, conducting lessons learned to communicate the need and identify an action plan to address the issue will help the other projects. In this process, each project adds incremental value beyond the benefit of one project alone.  A project manager is not just a ring master routing tasks but is more like the performers on the swinging trapeze constantly and gracefully extending arms to support the other performers. 

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