Agile and Traditional team management

As in the previous topics, agile and traditional project management take a radically different view on team management.

Traditional project management has its focus on very strong processes that allow the least deviation for product teams. The idea behind traditional project management is that the project manager is responsible for delivery, and in the delivery process, a team is a tool. As such, the most time is spent on assigning tasks to team members, following up on them, monitoring and controlling their progress. Traditional methodologies try to reduce uncertainty using detailed project plans, as they believe that the more plans are in place to stick to, the less uncertain can happen, so negative surprises can be avoided.

In contrast with these techniques, agile project management places a high emphasis on shared responsibility: delivery (creating customer value) is everybody’s responsibility. The team has to manage their workload, which means that they commit to a set of features to be delivered until a date, and they can be held accountable for their commitment. In agile, the project manager should thrive to create self-organizing, empowered teams. This means that teams are able to work with little guidance. Thus the micromanagement of traditional ways of working can be taken out of the picture. Also, empowered teams have the possibility to decide among themselves in important questions, like architecture, deployment or design. This does not mean that at times the project lead should not step in and say no (4 different architectural styles with 4 teams would be chaos, rather than empowerment), but the idea is that the leader assumes a facilitator role, rather than a micromanager one. To build self-organizing teams, the right people have to be selected. Unlike in traditional PM where it may have less impact due to the rigid processes, in APM the personal traits of the team members are crucial besides the technical ones. People who can not accept shared responsibility, commitment or are not accountable should not be allowed on the team.

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