How technical should a project manager be

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Browsing the open PM position vacancies you can find out that employers are looking for project managers who know how to code in just about every existing language (not let than 10+ years of experience) with several technical, not PM, certifications tossed in.

But is it necessary for the PM to be a technical guy? Seems that now almost every company has their own definition of the “project manager” – that can be anything from the pm-secretary to pm-software architect. But let’s use our common sense and find out why there are so many people who insist on PMs having a lot of development experience.

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Personal Kanban: my experience

IMG_5273I think every Project Manager knows how easily you can become flooded with the tasks. While developers can afford spending some time on the single task, PM has to switch between a lot of tasks during the single hour (some PMs think that they are multitasking, but it is not true :). Sometimes, in the end of the day I feel like I spent all my time on switching and dream about getting some task on which I can spend 3 hours in a row and not been distracted.

Developers usually say that while they work they fully wrap their mind around the task at hand, they create the “mental model” of the classes, methods, etc and they need some time to “get context loaded” when they start working with the task.  They feel something like the “work stream”, so when they are distracted – it takes time to get back to it.

I should say, for me PMs work process is the same – I get to the office in the morning, sit in my chair and have so spend some time to “load mental model” of my projects: project details, people, relationships, todos, etc. Sometimes I do that on my way to work. I am not keeping all details in my head all the time – I unwrap this model when it is needed. The difference between the “work stream” of developer and the manager is that manager’s constants of “interruptions” –  you have to think quick, make some decisions, answer questions and be always alarmed.

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Zombie team management: team health check-list

IMG_5205I believe that Project manager is here, on this planet, not only for the projects to be delivered in time and on budget. On of the most important things for the Project managers is to care about their teams. In software development I always worked so close with the teams, that I couldn’t imagine I can avoid supporting teams health, mood and motivation.
So, let’s talk about monitoring your team health, so you can see the signs of the death coming or any feed back of the system on your actions. By the way, some Project managers prefer to work with zombie teams, as they are so easy to control. I am not judging, so you can use the check-list the both ways – to prevent your team becoming a zombie team and to make you team a zombie team.

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Agile Tooth Fairy and top barrier for Agile adoption

IMG_5199You implemented Scrum, told project managers that they are now scrum masters, had the all-hands meeting where announced that you are agile now, wrote that you are Agile on your website, your sales managers say agile not less than 1 time in a minute when they talk to the customer, but… still something doesn’t work?  You feel yourself like painting the wall white colour but still can see the black underneath? Do you recognize your company? I do)  I feel like everyone are just “playing” agile, they do not “live” it.

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Ideal Project Manager 1.0, boxed

Several months ago I was leaving one of the best teams I worked with. I wanted to leave them something, that will help them coping with any issues they would have. That is when the idea of “Ideal Project Manager 1.0” came to my mind. Developers usually complain that PMs are doing nothing during the working hours, they are only telling everyone how they should work. I am close to this idea too, so I created this ultimately cost-efficient version of project manager which can 100% replace your PM. This PM works 24h/day, 7 days/week  and can 100%  replace the ordinary PM. Functionality includes all the good PM features – it provides you a piece of advice or direct command every time you have issue or task to solve.

So, I want to share with you this unique product, so it can help your teams too. Say hello “Project manager 1.0”!

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What I have to say about self-organizing teams

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Remember Agile manifesto? ‘The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams’. But why self-organizing teams? How to build them? How do they emerge?

When I say “self-organizing teams” top managers usually think ‘teams which need no management’, ‘magic teams which work twice as much’. They behave as if we can just hire 10 nice people, put them in one room and tell them “And now you have to self-organize.’ We talk a lot about such teams, but rarely can we assemble one. Some of my colleagues even say that it is a luxury to have such teams and we just can’t afford them.

I tried to collect all my thoughts on the self-organizing teams in this post.

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Product idea inception – discovery exercise

I became much lazier during the last couple of years – I need to hear a good reason to start doing something. The same when it comes to work – “why?” became one of my favourite questions. I discovered how many things are done without the reason. Ask “Why do we need this new type of report?”  and then repeat the question unless you get deep to the real reason. When you finally get to smth the like “Because everyone does it!” – you can show the maximum understanding of the problem on your face while leaving the room and going to the kitchen to prepare a cup of coffee and get back to reading Reddit. Try and you’ll be surprised too.

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Ok…But who is resposible for delivery?

Decided to create this post as I’ve heard this question many times during the last 3 weeks. Several people asked that during the cspo training; clients asked 2 times; my boss and my colleagues could not omit this question too(3 times in total). So I want to share some of my thoughts on this topic.

Let’s imagine a scrum team, which is working on a Product. We have a Scrum master – a nice guy – and a Product owner, who has a lot of great ideas and drives the product on. The team works hard every sprint (yes, they play tennis and drink coffee several times a day. And… oh, hell… they even read facebook and watch cat videos during the working hours. So, just an average team). And one day their stakeholder/big boss comes and asks Scrum Master, “Ok, I see the team is working. You have a scrum master, a product owner… But we have a release planned in 2 months. So, tell me, who is responsible for the delivery? Who is responsible for the release being shipped on time?”

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It seems that I hate estimations. Really?

Once (ok, let’s be honest, not just once) I was thinking, “Why not to get rid of estimations?”. I heard a lot from the developers in our company that they hate estimating. That is usually a very painful process for a project manager, too. Not only because of the process itself, but because of what happens afterwards. If you worked on more than one project, you definitely know that the estimation your team created won’t be ok for business people. They certainly know that this feature is very easy and that story can be done in a day… Or, “My colleague – he is a developer himself – thinks this can be done in a week!”. They all need hours, exact numbers and deadlines. Team wishes not to provide that.

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Great team checklist

Once you start working with the team that is really great, you stop thinking about the things that make them great – their greatness just exists and you “feel” it. But “feel” doesn’t work for me – I really need to describe, classify, plan and predict. So, let’s try to describe the features of a great team, so it would help us breed more great teams. Have you ever been a part of great team? Or worked with one? Please share your experience.

What makes the difference:

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