A few years ago, there was a totally rad Program Manager who worked with a totally rad-er R&D team on big, cross-functional programs.
This Program Manager was rockin’ at her job (obviously), and enjoying the fruits of her diligence in learning and applying her department’s Waterfall of a process.
She got so comfortable with the process that she could sometimes swim in the Waterfall with her eyes closed.
Still, her (and other PMs’ in the department) programs and projects kept pushing right up against schedules, sometimes causing panic in big corner offices.
Then, someone from one of the big corner offices made the decision to allow the Waterfall to dry up, and to give Agility a go.
Scrum trainers were immediately brought in, books were read, and rules were set. (Sound familiar? More about that later).
The PMO was abuzz, and lit with the fire of the one question that was on everyone’s mind:
In this new world of Scrum, where do all the Project and Program Managers go?
As everyone learned very quickly, there are 3 roles in Scrum: Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Scrum Team.
No mention of Project Managers.
(There’s a glimmer of hope when you start reading “Pro..”, then your face falls as your brain processes the rest of it: “..duct Owner”.)
In this new world of Scrum, Project and Program Managers needed a home, and with time, everyone concluded that there were three options:
1) Project/Program Managers could become Scrum Masters
2) Project/Program Managers could become Product Owners
3) Program Managers could keep their job as Program Managers, and learn to adapt processes and practices to work effectively between the Scrum team and the stakeholders
The end-result was a mix of all three:
1) Some R&D Project managers and some R&D team leads became Scrum Masters
2) Other R&D Project managers and some Program Managers became Product Owners
3) Some Program Managers remained Program Managers, but worked with stakeholders, Scrum Masters, Product Owners, and Scrum teams in a new way
It was an interesting and exciting time, with many highs and lows.
In the end, though, I learned a big lesson that has stuck with me throughout the years:
Job security is created via the possession of unique, solid skills and a passion for what one does, not via a job title.
It was the people who had a dedication to their work, along with a strong and differentiated skill set that were found a home in this new environment.
It’s not to say that people who possess these things will never lose a job or be at risk of losing a job. But those people will move on, and they will find a home that appreciates their talents.
In the next installment, I’ll talk about what characteristics and skills I saw as facilitating the move to either Scrum Master or Product Owner for Project and Program Managers.