Blending PRINCE2 with Agile – Part Two 

 September 12, 2022

By  Dave Litten

The Agile Organizational Theme

It seems that the PRINCE2 approach to the project has roles that ‘manage and ‘control’ teams, whereas agile has teams that organize themselves (that is, they are self-empowered and there is no team manager).
But don’t worry because PRINCE2 and agile approaches to managing people can work together in a very efficient manner.

As an example, agile frameworks, recommend a servant leader approach to lead delivery teams. Agile approaches do not like to use the words “manager” or “management” as it suggests an autocratic style with less trust in the team members.

Servant Leadership

In agile, the leadership approach that is recommended is called servant leadership where these individuals support their teams by facilitating collaborative styles of leadership.

A servant leader will see their role as removing impediments for the teams, helping them run progress meetings, and providing techniques and tools that enabled the teams to better carry out their jobs. They may even provide a disciplinary service when an individual is disrupting the team in some way.

So, is there a middle ground? Well yes, there is, you see if projects just run based on an empowered team, organizations can feel insecure because ultimately they are in business to make a profit and satisfy their shareholders.

The key here is to get the balance right between the need to control and manage the project thereby increasing the probability of project success, while allowing the delivery teams to be self-organizing, collectively responsible for their work, and empowered. This in and of itself increases the motivation and engagement of the team.

The key transactional point between these two approaches is the link between the project manager and the teams so it is important that PRINCE2 and agile environments work well together.

You may consider that you don’t need anyone called a team manager but what is important is at the responsibilities of the PRINCE2 team manager are covered.

To remind you the team manager’s responsibilities include planning, monitoring, and managing progress while at the same time liaising with the project manager and other stakeholders. In addition, the team manager will need to be managing issues and risks and finally acceptance and handover of the products.

You could imagine here a variety of different interfaces between the project manager in the team. You may have a team manager working directly with the team members themselves.

But before we go any further I want to remind you of two main roles that exist in agile and scrum – that of the product owner and the scrum master.

The Product Owner

The product owner is the empowered central point of product leadership and forms one of the three roles that constitute every scrum team, that is the product owner, scrum master, and the development team.

The product owner needs to have a dual focus. They need to understand the needs of priorities of the organization, stakeholders, customers, and users well enough to act as their voice. So, the product owner acts as a product manager, ensuring that the right solution is developed.

The product owner must communicate to the development team what they must build and the order in which to build it. The product owner must ensure that the criteria for accepting features are specified and tests that verify those criteria are run to determine whether the features are of a complete product
You can see that the product owner is part business analyst and part tester.
The product owner is a full-time role with significant responsibilities. In some cases, you may not find a single person who can fill the product owner role, in which case as a compromise, you may need two individuals.

The Product Owner

The Scrum Master

Product owner’s focus is on building the right product, and the development team is focused on building the product right. The scrum master Is focused on helping understand and embrace the scrum values, principles, and practices.

The scrum master acts as a coach to the development team and the product owner while providing process leadership, helping the scrum team and the rest of the organization develop their own high-performance, organization-specific scrum approach.

So, returning to the team manager it would be best if they use a highly collaborative approach to managing their team so as to start to embody some of the concepts of servant leadership.

Agile teams work best when they do not have to constantly refer upward for a decision, instead are left to do their work without interruptions.

The PRINCE2 principle of management by exception helps create autonomous teams. Here, the project manager could delegate work packages describing the targets for the cost, time, and scope of the work.

PRINCE2 uses tolerances and these allow the delivery team to have more autonomy because they do not have to refer up to the project manager about the decision if they feel that they are running out of time within a Sprint. They will then focus on creating the highest priority products first so that when the Sprint is completed the scope would have been adjusted to deliver the highest value products.

In agile, teams need to be fairly small certainly no more than eight or nine people. The specialist team comprises different ranges of skills to aid in working together collaboratively.

It follows therefore that each delivery team might have a number of customer subject matter experts who act as a conduit for all views from a particular customer or user of the products.

These customer subject matter experts are like the product owners and might also sit on the project board as senior users. Such specialists might be called business analysts or requirements engineers who are trained in understanding business requirements and translating them into product designs.

Referring to the product owner, this will be a single individual who is accountable for collecting the list of prioritized product requirements and features needed by the users and customers.

The product owner is somewhat like the PRINCE2 senior user, and he could be seen as a super product owner

directing the work of individual product owners operating within each delivery team.

In summary, these considerations regarding the interface between the project manager and the specialist self-empowered teams need careful thought and consideration for each project.

Choosing Methodologies Senior Project Managers Need?

Projects are simply a method for managing and delivering change, so selecting the project management methodology that is right for you (for a specific project, of course), will ensure you deliver your project to a successful conclusion and outcome.

Are you preparing for your PRINCE2 Practitioner Exam? Hop on over here to learn how I can help you!

For the 3rd part of Blending PRINCE2 with Agile – click here!

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Dave Litten

David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He now develops a wide range of Project Management Masterclasses, under the Projex Academy brand name. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management.

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