A Rose By Any Other Name: Project Manager, Scrum Master? Flow Manager?

hot cabinet in bakery with pastry - Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by Coka
Hot cabinet in bakery with pastry – Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by Coka

I love Pastries.

So it stands to reason that I really like Bakeries.

Several years ago, I used to frequent a German bakery that sold authentic German pastries.

I had to drive 20-30 minutes to get there, but it was worth every minute when I bit into the apple pastries I bought.

Bakeries need to fill several roles in order to sell enough pastries to stay in business.
  • Someone to manage the counter
  • Someone to ensure that the supplies the bakers need are available
  • Someone to tend to the business of managing the Bakery – are the bills being paid?
  • and then finally, someone to actually bake the pastries

It makes sense that if you have a baker that he can handle the other roles.  That one baker or some number of other bakers would have to manage the counter, order supplies and pay the bills, but it *could be done*.  But that means that someone is off doing something other than making the pastries.  There is an opportunity cost that must be paid by someone.

Notice what is not disappearing:
  • The need to manage the bakery
  • The managing of the counter
  • The need to tend to the business of managing the bakery

In fact, the more successful the bakery, the more important these roles become.

<And so the rant starts.

I like agile.  I love the idea of a self-organizing team.  I’ve never been in an agile environment long enough to see a individuals get used to working together to be a well-formed team, but I have heard that they do exist out there.  And I believe!

Hand drawing Project Management flow chart with red marker on transparent wipe board. Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by Ivelin Radkov
Hand drawing Project Management flow chart with red marker on transparent wipe board. Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by Ivelin Radkov

I bought into the idea that hey – you don’t really need a project manager to manage the work – the team can do the work.  The problem seems to be the remaining tasks that need to be managed.  The boring non-coder tasks.  The status, forecasting, risk management tracking, coordinating inputs and outputs, updating the plan: in short, the paperwork and providing that status to the powers that be.

According to Agile, these are supposed to be managed by the team.  But I keep seeing articles that use weasel words to take what I thought were free floating responsibilities and put them on what is looking suspiciously like a project manager.

I don’t mind if project managers get added back to address what needs to be done  – we want the bakers to focus on baking, not running out to the cash register to ring folks up. I just really hate weasel words. In some cases, folks have said outright that the scrum master was the project manager.  Now I’ve heard the term Flow Master.  Flow master?  Really?  Do we really need another name for a role that, stripped of the weasel word, is simply a project manager?

businessman holding workflow scheme in hands - Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by Ivelin Radkov
businessman holding workflow scheme in hands – Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by denisismagilov

Obviously, we need someone to own the free floating responsibilities that need to be taken care of, but can we stop pretending that project management has no role – even in an agile environment?  I don’t much care what you call it, a rose by any other name…

Rant ended/>  If you want to join in or explain why I’m just wrong, please leave a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.
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