Thursday, April 14, 2016

Agile Project Manager/Scrum Master - Wrong, so, so wrong

I shouldn’t do this, it raises my blood pressure, I have better things to do, I have better things to blog about but I can’t help myself….

I made the mistake of opening a mail from a recruitment agent, the title: “Agile Project Manager/Scrum Master”, let me dissect it for you…

“My client based in the West Midlands are looking for an Agile Project Manager/Scrum Master for a long term project opportunity starting in May.”

Agile Project Manager/Scrum Master? - this is a pretty confused role, it is one thing or another, its one thing for a good project manager to act as a facilitator or for a Scrum Master to take on project responsibilities but to start out like this, well is just messed up.

Long term project? - there is no such thing, projects are temporary!

“The successful Agile Project Manager will be responsible for the planning, organising and managing of IT projects within this matrix resource environment. My client is looking for a technical Project Manager with strong experience in leading and managing multiple complex projects in agile environments. To be suitable you MUST have strong process and project management skills with experience in SCRUM.”

Planning, organising and managing of IT projects…? - what happened to self-organizing, empirical control?

And note “projects” not project (as it was before). Multiple project is a bad sign.

Matrix resource environment? - Matrix management, this organization has shot itself in the foot already.

Technical Project Manager? - so this person is a Scrum Master, a Project Manager and Technical, do they also make the tea and wash up?

And why all the SHOUTING? - Scrum is spelt Scrum, as in Rugby, it is not S.C.R.U.M. or SCRUM.

“As the Agile Project Manager/Agile Coach you will have ownership of the full life cycle project process, including the Software development lifecycle.”

Coach too? - as well as a Scrum Master, Project Manager and Technical? I’m not even complaining about the use of Agile and Scrum as if they a synonymous.

Ownership of the full life cycle… including the software development lifecycle, really? - except for the fact that the contract is for 6 months, the company is matrix managed, there are multiple projects and that some bastard hotchpotch process of SCRUM and traditional project management has been mandated.

In other words: you have as much ownership as a homeowner who’s house has just been repossessed by the bank.

Anyone taking this job would have their hands ties behind their back on day one.

“Key requirements:

  • Demonstrable experience managing complex Projects in fully Agile environments
  • SCRUM Master with previous experience of running Agile project teams
  • Excellent presentation skills & competence in project management tools
  • Full life cycle delivery experience
  • Ensure all SCRUM ceremonies are adhered to throughout project lifecycle
  • Collaborate with project teams (both on and offshore), create and maintain project plans and schedules”

Fully Agile environments don’t have projects, Scrum Masters don’t run Agile teams and “maintain project plans and schedules” sounds distinctly Gantt chart-ish.

Saying “all SCRUM ceremonies” sounds like the people doing the asking don’t actually know what the ceremonies are, just they must be “adhered to”. Anyway, Scrum isn’t a full lifecycle model so good luck here!

What is interesting here is what is not said:

  • No mention of facilitation, unblocking, coaching
  • No mention of technical skills (TDD, ATDD, BDD, refectoring, etc); this is supposed to be a “technical project manager”
  • No mention of empirical process control or forecasting
  • No mention of value
  • No mention of prioritisation
  • No mention of the Product Owner/BA/Product Manager

Normally I would be pleased that the recruiter wasn’t asking for a Scrum Master Certification, a Prince 2 certificate, or, heaven forbid, a “Agile Project Manager” qualification but on this occasion I read it more as a sign that the company doing the recruiting don’t actually know what they want.

Similarly, no mention of tools or technologies - Agile in PHP is very different Agile in embedded C, let alone the ERP Agile I’m working on now.


“If you are interested to find out more, please reply…”

Should read:

If you are a traditional project manager (who used to code in the dim and distant past) but can’t get work now the world has gone agile, but think you know what agile is (mini-waterfalls) then please give me a ring, you probably know more than the people doing the interviewing anyway.

Bottom line:

  1. Unfortunately this is the state of our industry, it is what many organization do and want. But it is far far from what the best teams do.
  2. Don’t blame the recruiter, their industry is based on failure, most recruitment agents are failed real estate agents.
  3. The organization requesting this role have such a poor understanding of what they need they shouldn’t actually be allowed to hire anyone.

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