Agile 2009: A reminder of why each team needs leadership

:: Originally Posted on the Pathfinder Development's Blog ::

Last week I presented at Agile 2009 a workshop for those new to Agile entitled: The Agile Game: An Experiential Workshop. I love this workshop because it allows those new to Agile to experience the rhythm of an agile project in action and learn first hand many of the practices in a non-threatening, non-technical, and fun way. I have used this workshop for clients a number of times and it works. The feedback from this session was overwhelmingly positive too. Comments such as, “Fun game, good to demonstrate how teams do and don’t work together” and “Very, very, practical way to get concept through” are always great to see.

Recently I had been wondering if Project Management was a questionable career choice. I have spent the last couple of years surrounded by talented individuals who seemed to be able to work fine without me. The test is always when the project manager (me) goes on vacation. Has the team fallen apart? Are they forgetting all of the practices they were doing? Is stuff getting delivered to clients? I was finding that I had a backlog of chores when I came back, but overall things were still humming along.

The Agile 2009 session reminded me of the road I took from software developer to a project manager and why. Early in career I generally found project managers provided little value. I asked a lot of questions and I caused a lot of trouble for those “managing” me. Eventually somebody said the equivalent of, “If you think you could do it better, do it.” No introduction to the subject tells you that, simply, good project managers are good leaders. They optimize what resources they have available, point out areas for improvement, and occasionally carry a stick. An Agile project manager, freed from the burdens of heavy process, can’t stay busy with chores long and must produce a good team quickly. I found that through focusing on how the team could work best together and gently pushing during retrospectives, I left a trail of happy teams on successful projects.

It may not be the most glamorous job, but each team needs one. To continue the sports theme from my last post: Most teams populated by very talented athletes. However, its take a good coach to help each of them reach potential together as a team. Now, back to leading my team.

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