What Is an Agile Project Manager?
More and more organizations are adopting an agile style of project management, which is a collaborative methodology using short development cycles called “sprints” to incorporate stakeholder and customer feedback along the way. The goal is to embrace flexibility and continuous improvement ultimately resulting in a better end product. However, in an agile environment, the role of the project manager is less defined.
That’s because agile project management puts the focus more on team collaboration and less on hierarchical leadership. For example, consider that some of the most popular frameworks for implementing agile project management include scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming (XP), and Adaptive Project Framework (APF). The scrum practice advocates distributing the responsibilities of the traditional project manager role among the team members, with an appointed Scrum Master serving as the team’s guide and facilitator. This means the role of a traditional project manager will evolve in an agile environment, depending on the project and organization structure.
An agile project manager might take on any of the following roles:
- A key facilitator: Their goal is to empower their team and clear potential roadblocks, paving the way for project success.
- Change management expert: They will be tasked with rallying the entire organization around agile project management, ushering new processes, and communicating with company stakeholders.
- Strategic coach and trainer: In an agile environment, change happens fast. Project managers will be tasked with helping their teams master the newest tools, workflows and processes.
Key skills of a successful agile project manager
Regardless of how an organization defines the role of agile project manager, anyone tasked with managing projects in an agile environment should possess the following qualities for success:
- Exceptional organizational skills, including the ability to prioritize. In an agile environment, it becomes imperative that project managers be laser-focused on essential components of the project and let go of unnecessary or distracting work.
- The ability to thrive—and remain calm—under pressure.
- Excellent communication skills and the ability to work well with others.
- Superior critical thinking capabilities, including the ability to think on his or her feet.
- Comfort with quickly changing priorities and a high level of adaptability and flexibility.
Ultimately, an agile project manager can embrace the four key values of the methodology listed in the official Agile manifesto:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
Agile project management certification and training
More and more organizations are offering certifications for agile project managers. A few of the most well known include:
- Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) from the Project Management Institute (PMI)
- Agile Project Management Practitioner (AgilePM) from APMG International
- Associate or master’s in agile from Strategyex
- Certifications and credentials from:
- The International Consortium for Agile (ICAgile)
- Scaled Agile Academy
- Scrum Alliance
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