What qualities should a “good” Project Manager have and should they be “moms” or “dads” for their teams? Invited leading experts tried to answer this question within “Modern Project Management”, *instinctools Techtime project discussion. Each of them went their own unique way in the IT business and led large projects and large teams. We offer you excerpts from the discussion, which lasted more than an hour and, according to the audience, turned out to be very useful for both beginner and experienced Project Managers.

The discussion was attended by Vladimir Gorshunov – AgileLAB founder, General Manager Ask Applications/Apalon, Vladimir Makovsky – Delivery Director Profitero, Roman Kovalevsky – Delivery Manager, Banuba, a popular Telegram channel about IT Project Management and Product Development creator, Yuri Eroshenkov – discussion moderator, Head of PMO at *instinctools.

Photo: Google.com

What came first: Scrum or Agile?

Agile and classical project management should not be separated. We are talking about the management theory development. So Agility is this theory development. That is, we have management 1.0 – this is Peter Drucker: factories, ships, workers, higher scrutiny and accountability. Further, management 2.0 is Daimeng’s ideas, when we accept the theory that there is a “reasonable person” and he does something. In this case, we will proceed from the fact that he knows what he is doing. Moreover, there is management 3.0 – this is what we call Agile today. Here you need to understand that Agile is not something completely different and opposing itself to classical project management. Agile is a management theory development, but at the same time, a lot of approaches that include Agile were created long before its appearance. My favorite question is what came first: Scrum or Agile? The trick is that Scrum arose before Agile and was not called Agile. Then we realized that Scrum can be “drawn” into Agile.

Vladimir Gorshunov:

For me, Agile is about working with people, and it is not about explaining what needs to be done. The task is to explain why this is necessary. There is no clear division between what should and should not be done.

Vladimir Makovsky:

There are two models that explain the Agile applicability, one of them is the Kenevin model. It says we have four zones. A “clear activity” zone, when we explicitly understand what needs to be done. An instructions zone – do it according to the manual, if you deviate from it, it will be worse. In other words, it is a zone of accumulated knowledge and understanding regarding how to do it. If we are making the 500th business card site, this is a “clear activity”, we don’t really need Agile here. But in the described case, Kanban flow methods can be used, that is, what is called classical project management. After “clear activity”, we have “complex complicated”, and it’s already interesting there, there are two approaches: somewhere we say that we use Agile only in one area, and in the other we use experts. Simply put, we make a standard project for the customer, but we understand that something will go wrong. However, since we have already done something in this domain and in this technology, we roughly understand what can go wrong. And here we have our iteration and transparency, the Agile applicability.

Vladimir Gorshunov:

“The team can be located in Indonesia or the USA, and the facilitator in Germany”

The pandemic has shown that you can work remotely and nothing bad will happen. On the other hand, I came across some opinion polls where people promoted the hybrid work model idea: one or two days a week in the office, and the rest of the time working remotely from home. It seems to me that approximately this format of work will continue and the world will be transformed towards an increase in coworking, companies will rent less and less office space. Moreover, such a format of work will change the HR role a little, as previously the team gathered together with the manager and drank beer with him on Fridays, and tea on Wednesdays. Nowadays it is not the case, but the need for communication remains. I think this issue will go over to HR and we will drink tea in Zoom.

Roman Kovalevsky:

There is a good phrase “HR is a friend for the PM”. In fact, when you are shorthanded, you work in tandem with HR. On the other hand, American practice shows that online and Zoom bars are the saddest story ever. People have even tried to play all sorts of cooperative video games, but they have not solved the communication problem. The question is how to form a team located in different cities and to communicate. There are teams that do not overlap in time zones. And if earlier we have regarded it as a bad practice meaning that people should see each other at a stand-up, currently the opinion is radically different – they should not.

Vladimir Gorshunov:
Photo: https://octagon.media/

For some types of activities, online mode has become more efficient than offline. If you are involved in PI planning for a dozen teams, then offline mode requires a large room, it will be a little stuffy in it, a little inaudible. But everyone is involved. Nowadays, when we hold such events online, it is easy to gather 100 people, and everyone will hear and see everything. Even if someone “fell off”, then all the same, their team members are present. There is no such problem as putting everyone on planes and bringing them from different locations to one, if the teams are distributed. The team can be located in Indonesia or the US and the facilitator is in Germany and it works. This is a slightly different view of reality, but it is more interesting. The IT industry has become truly global. I support the opinion that in the future there will be a hybrid format of work. People want to come to the office like a hub. Now there are great tools for online team communication. Basically, developers use Slack, those who are unlucky use Skype, and startups prefer Discord. Moreover, Discord is more a product for players, but it turned out that it is quite suitable for communication between development teams.

“If you want to be a PM, learn to communicate with people”

Speaking about the PM role in the team work, we must understand that, first of all, we are talking about responsibility for the result, for the team. And in order to be able to bear this responsibility, you need to gain trust. If you want to be a PM, learn to communicate with people. It is necessary not to ingratiate yourself with people’s trust, but to earn this trust. That is, the PM story is more about trust and communication. And I don’t think that an engineer who became a manager is a positive story. I read an article where there was an idea that it is more profitable for companies to pay more to an engineer so that he remains an engineer, feels comfortable. But at the same time, for the sake of a salary increase, this engineer does not need to be promoted to the position of PM. Real managers understand why they perform their functions, and not just follow everyone with a stick and move cards on the board. And, of course, now it is extremely vital for PMs to have a high English level. And this level should not be “good”, but “excellent”. After all, we are working in an era when distributed team use is expanding in IT and PMs can have people from different countries subordinate to them.

Vladimir Makovsky:

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