Will the Project Manager survive


in the agile world? [1]



By Henny Portman

The Netherlands


In organizations where projects are common, often a division is made between ‘change the business’ and ‘run the business’, also called ‘business as usual’ (BAU). Portfolio management manages the ‘change the business’ side by prioritizing the projects and programs that are necessary for the realization of the strategic objectives.

Portfolio management will continue to exist in the agile world. If traditional portfolio management only looks at the change initiatives within ‘change the business’, portfolio management will also have to focus explicitly on ‘run the business’ or ‘business as usual’ in the agile world. The Scrum Guide makes no distinction between ‘change the business’ and ‘run the business’. Scrum starts from a product, and a backlog with all the requirements for that product.

In traditional organizations, products and/or services are delivered through projects. To this end, project organizations are set up with employees from different disciplines within the organization at the start of a project. At the end of the project, the project organization will be dismantled and the employees go back to their own department. Think of the steering committee or project board with the executive or project sponsor, senior user(s) and senior supplier(s), the project manager, the team managers, the delivery teams and for support a temporary PMO. If necessary, a change authority may be appointed by the steering committee or project board to relieve the steering committee and accelerate decision-making.

We call this building and dismantling of project organizations also ‘move people to work’. It requires the necessary coordination and skills to select the right employees and takes a lot of time. From portfolio management, a match can be made between project managers and change initiatives (with possible shifts of project managers from in-flight initiatives to other initiatives).

During the selection of the project team, the project manager can (or must), in addition to the competencies required for the work, make use of the individual preference styles of the team members, as elaborated by Belbin with his team roles, or by the American psychologist Clare Graves with Spiral Dynamics and Management Drives. It also requires the effort and time needed for the team to function as a team. Think of the five phases of group development of Bruce Tuckman: forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning.

In addition to give space and time to the team to work on the group dynamics, time will also have to be devoted to develop and maintain sufficient domain knowledge.

Figure 1 From temporary project work towards a permanent development team

More and more organizations no longer dismantle the development team after the intended product has been delivered. For maintenance and functional adjustment of the delivered product or the development of new products, the same, now permanent, development team will be used. In this way, the accumulated domain knowledge is retained by the entire team and, perhaps even more important, the individual team members remain part of the same team. This is how the positive group dynamics can continue to exist and the team can move towards a high performing team…


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How to cite this article: Portman, H. (2021). Will the Project Manager survive in the agile world? Commentary, PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue IV, April. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/pmwj104-Apr2021-Portman-will-the-project-manager-survive-agile.pdf


About the Author 

Henny Portman

The Netherlands


 Henny Portman, owner of Portman PM[O] Consultancy and was partner of HWP Consulting, has 40 years of experience in the project management domain. He was the project management office (PMO) thought leader within NN Group and responsible for the introduction and application of the PMO methodologies (portfolio, programme and project management) across Europe and Asia. He trains, coaches and directs (senior) programme, project and portfolio managers and project sponsors at all levels, and built several professional (PM(O) communities.

Henny Portman is accredited in a variety of qualifications, including P3O, PRINCE2, MSP, MoP, PRINCE2 Agile, AgilePM, AgilePgM and AgileSHIFT trainer and a SPC4 SAFe consultant and trainer. He is a P3M3 trainer and assessor and PMO Value Ring Certified Consultant (PMO Global Alliance). On behave of IPMA, he assesses mega and large projects for the IPMA Project Excellence Award. In addition to this, he is an international speaker and author of many articles and books in the PM(O) field and blogger (hennyportman.wordpress.com).  Henny can be contacted at henny.portman@gmail.com.

To view other works by Henny Portman, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/henny-portman/

[1] This article is based on a chapter from the Dutch book Scaling Agile in organisaties, 2nd edition, 2020, Henny Portman