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Retire Your Legacy Project Roles

Basic

difficulty

Stage 4

Agile IQ® Level

Sprint Planning

Event

Introduction

When an organisation decides to modernise its IT infrastructure, new infrastructure is created and old infrastructure is decommissioned. Similarly with business infrastructure, when we modernise delivery with roles such as Product Owner and Scrum Master, older roles become obsolete and should be retired.

Roles of Product Owner and Scrum Master

The roles of Product Owner and Scrum Master are defined in the Scrum Guide. [1] At a high level:

  • The Product Owner is accountable for maximising the value of a product.
  • The Scrum Master is accountable for team delivery of product development.

The responsibilities of these roles overlap with traditional management positions such as Solutions Manager, Project Manager and Project Administrator, while other responsibilities may be distributed or automated:

  • Distribution – the team is collectively responsible for activities such as risk management, scope management, communication management, etc.
  • Automation – processes and visual control allow for the deprecation of activities such as status reporting.

What does the shift look like?

Each organisation has a particular view of governance based on the project management methodology it uses. For many, the shift in governance requires:

  • Transparency of existing project roles and responsibilities.
  • An understanding of agile roles.
  • A transfer plan for governance, including – who will take up the roles of Product Owner and Scrum Master.
  • Which people will become part of what teams.
retiring project roles
Above: Typical shift from project to agile roles

Organisational Change and Risk

It is encumbent on organisations to identify impacts to organisational structure and roles when introducing Scrum. The roles of Product Owner and Scrum Master should be viewed as new roles and not retro-fitted into existing roles. Such appointments can impacts aspects such as governance, decision rights, reporting and the workforce itself.

It is common for organisations to appoint existing staff members in the roles of Product Owner and Scrum Master for various reasons. While this may be the quickest solution there are issues to be aware of. Staff may:

  • Lack the skills or experience
  • Lack the desire to perform new roles
  • Be inflexible to change, both behaviour and mindset
  • Be responsible for multiple roles
  • Be appointed Product Owner and Scrum Master for the same team
  • Receive insufficient training and coaching to perform the new role

The organisation should take a holistic view to change and not only at the team level.

ROle of Change Management

“Change is the only constant in life” — Heraclitus

Change Management is the application of a structured process and set of tools for leading the people side of change to achieve a desired outcome. [2] When an organisation seeks to adopt change, such as introducing agile practices, new opportunities are created while some may view change as a threat. Change Management requires the identification of the human impacts of change such that the organisation provides development opportunities for staff to perform new roles or for external staff to be hired.

Appropriate levels of communication, consultation and training should be planned for when introducing new practices and methods of work.

Things to watch out for

  • Due diligence is required to ensure legal obligations are met when retiring roles.
  • Fear, resentment and disengagement can rise in an organisation when existing roles are being retired for new roles.
  • Do not assume people competent in one role will be competent in another.
  • Compliance requirements still need to be met. Agile teams typically use a Definition of Done to define what these are, how it applies to their work, and will create a plan each Sprint that defines how they will meet these criteria.

Actions to try

  • Plan for the retirement of roles before you introduce new roles.
  • Have a change plan to manage the adoption of agile practices.
  • Update succession plans and career pathways for staff.

References

1. Sutherland, J. & Schwaber, K. (2020) The 2020 Scrum Guide. https://scrumguides.org/scrum-guide.html

2. What is Change Management and How Does it Work? https://www.prosci.com/resources/articles/what-is-change-management-and-how-does-it-work
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