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What is the reason to have non technical project managers or non technical scrum masters?

 
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I have been working in managers who were technical earlier in their career and now they manage and guide the team. However now I have come across a manager who will be acting as our scrum master and also as our project manager. He is totally non technical person.What is the reason to have non technical project managers or non technical scrum masters instead of technical ? Also, how should the daily interactions with non technical managers or non technical scrum masters be like ?
 
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Neither project mgmt nor scrum mgmt is inherently technical. While an understanding of the technical issues involved would of course be helpful (and will come to him over time, I'm sure), they're not required. I think it can be helpful to have someone who has no preconceived notions of "how things should be done"; such a person can bring a fresh perspective, and could act in a neutral fashion in any technical disagreements.

I don't know that the interactions would be any different. Obviously, you'd have to explain technical stuff more frequently to such a person.
 
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Scrum Master is a coaching role. As long as the PM or SM can understand what is going on at a high level, it seems fine. Some projects are more technical than others. A non-technical PM or SM would probably do better on some projects than others. Just because some vocabulary is so technical it would require training to follow the standup.

Also, remember that projects don't have to be technical. For example, moving an office from one building to another is a project. And requires a project manager!
 
Satyaprakash Joshii
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What can be an example situation where a non technical scrum master or a non technical project manager can do better than the technical ones?
 
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Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:What can be an example situation where a non technical scrum master or a non technical project manager can do better than the technical ones?


When the non-technical person has better PM or communication or facilitation skills. Remember that being technical is just one skill.
 
Satyaprakash Joshii
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My understanding is that for technical projects,  a good PM or Scrum master is the one who can get the team to complete the work faster and with good quality and that he would be able to get work complete faster with good quality if he has some technical idea of how they are doing it as compared to when he does not have technical idea of that.
 
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Typical misconception of the scrum master role. Scrum master, as Jeanne mentioned, is partly a coaching role. They coach people on how best to collaborate and organize. There's a bit of irony there because agile teams are supposed to be self-organizing. In reality, there have been very few, if any, teams I have come across that are truly self-organizing. Most teams need help in not only their structure and communication but in their engineering practices as well. It is not the Scrum Master's job to get things done; it's the whole team's job. A good SM inculcates that idea on their teams. With collective ownership comes collective responsibility.

In reality, upper management often looks for that one neck to wring. This again is an anti-agile mindset that rolls downhill. So you get these anti-agile ideas that it's the SM's responsibility to crack the whip and keep developers in line. Bad, bad, bad.

A true SM protects their team from outside pressures. They coach their teams on how to organize. They protect the process and keep the work being done aligned to the process boundaries and parameters. If they are non-technical, they find a good technical coach for the team. The SM is a problem solver. They help the team deal with impediments, like upper management bugging for "just this one little feature" or pressuring to meet some arbitrary deadline. The SM is not a PM. That is another anti-pattern if they behave like one.
 
Satyaprakash Joshii
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:

Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:What can be an example situation where a non technical scrum master or a non technical project manager can do better than the technical ones?


When the non-technical person has better PM or communication or facilitation skills. Remember that being technical is just one skill.



If someone is taken as non technical manager because he has better PM or communication or facilitation  skills,  still it would be always possible to have a person who has these PM or  communication skills   and facilitation skills as well as he is technical then why choose a non technical person .

A has good PM, communication, facilitation skills.
B has good PM, communicating, facilitation skills plus technical skills.

Then would one not choose B?
 
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Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:

Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:

Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:What can be an example situation where a non technical scrum master or a non technical project manager can do better than the technical ones?


When the non-technical person has better PM or communication or facilitation skills. Remember that being technical is just one skill.



If someone is taken as non technical manager because he has better PM or communication or facilitation  skills,  still it would be always possible to have a person who has these PM or  communication skills   and facilitation skills as well as he is technical then why choose a non technical person .

A has good PM, communication, facilitation skills.
B has good PM, communicating, facilitation skills plus technical skills.

Then would one not choose B?



Yeah, more can be better. If C is a person who is Jeff Bezos, Martin Fowler, James Whittaker and Tom Cruise all rolled into one, then I'd hire C over B. If you have a need and budget for C, then go for C.

PS - Are you seeing any issues in working with a non-technical manager? If yes, then mention those problems and how they affect you. Otherwise, every discussion is vague and theoretical.
 
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Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:
A has good PM, communication, facilitation skills.
B has good PM, communicating, facilitation skills plus technical skills.

Then would one not choose B?


The way you ask this question makes me think you're in a less than ideal situation made worse by a misunderstanding of what the Scrum Master role entails. Some of the best SMs I have worked with were non-technical. This allows them to be totally detached from the problems the team has to deal with and able to objectively facilitate a solution.

I'm curious, what/why do you think being a good PM has anything to do with being a good SM? Teams making the transition from traditional waterfall to Agile usually default to having their former PMs take on the SM role. Sometimes this works but often it doesn't because the person continues to act like a PM rather than an SM. I'd encourage you to understand the difference between a Project Manager and a Scrum Master
 
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Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:A has good PM, communication, facilitation skills.
B has good PM, communicating, facilitation skills plus technical skills.

Then would one not choose B?



There are less B's in the world. Many of them don't want to be a SM/PM. Why not have an A who is more likely to be happy in the role?
 
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Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:. . . good PM, communicating, facilitation skills plus technical skills.

Then would one not choose B?

As Jeanne said, such people probably prefer to use their technical skills.
 
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:

There are less B's in the world.



Is having good communication, facilitation and management skills so difficult for a technical person to have?  I used to think developing skills to manage developers who have lesser experienced than one is a natural skills for a more experienced member of development team (technical person).
 
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Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:. . . Is having good communication, facilitation and management skills so difficult for a technical person to have? . . .

That isn't what Jeanne said.
 
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Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:Is having good communication, facilitation and management skills so difficult for a technical person to have?  I used to think developing skills to manage developers who have lesser experienced than one is a natural skills for a more experienced member of development team (technical person).


This is the kind of mindset that leads to thinking that PMs with technical skills will make good Scrum Masters.

Leading is different from managing. Coaching and mentoring is different from managing. A senior technical person on a good agile team is a leader/coach/mentor, not a manager.
 
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A good manager of an agile team spends most of their time looking outside of the team, finding opportunities and work for the team, making sure that the team's work stays aligned with the larger business/organizational strategy and direction. A good agile team will only need their manager's help when it involves setting vision/strategy/direction, when they need facilitation to collaborate with other parts of the organization they are not in direct contact with (and when the Scrum Master can't facilitate those collaborations), to make sure budgets are sufficiently appropriated to team to meet their needs.

Good agile teams should be able to manage their own work. If a team needs someone else to manage their work for them, then they need more coaching on how to self-organize and self-manage. This is when a good Scrum Master and/or a good manager will step in to get the team to where they need to be.
 
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Satyaprakash Joshii wrote:Is having good communication, facilitation and management skills so difficult for a technical person to have?  I used to think developing skills to manage developers who have lesser experienced than one is a natural skills for a more experienced member of development team (technical person).


In any case, I wasn't talking about skills. I was talking about interests. I turned down the "opportunity" to be a manager a number of years ago. I don't want to have managing people replace the more technical aspects of my job. I like mentoring and leading, but that's not management as Junilu mentioned.

Note: I am a Scrum Master for my team as 25% of my job. So I am a technical SM. It's not the ideal arrangement and it isn't easy to make it work.
 
Satyaprakash Joshii
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:
In any case, I wasn't talking about skills. I was talking about interests. .



OK. Understood that it is about intrest too.
 
Satyaprakash Joshii
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Junilu Lacar wrote:

Leading is different from managing. Coaching and mentoring is different from managing. A senior technical person on a good agile team is a leader/coach/mentor, not a manager.



Thank you. that was a useful basic point for me to understand.
 
Satyaprakash Joshii
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Junilu Lacar wrote:A good manager of an agile team spends most of their time looking outside of the team, finding opportunities and work for the team



Thanks.Understood it .
 
Satyaprakash Joshii
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Junilu Lacar wrote:A good manager of an agile team spends most of their time looking outside of the team, finding opportunities and work for the team



,

Thank You.I understand that he would be spending time outside team interacting lot with the customer and also with higher management. For 'finding opportunities and work for the team' , is it not the work of sales team rather than manager?
 
Satyaprakash Joshii
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Junilu Lacar wrote: I'd encourage you to understand the difference between a Project Manager and a Scrum Master



Sure. I will read that.
 
Satyaprakash Joshii
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Junilu Lacar wrote:
Leading is different from managing. Coaching and mentoring is different from managing. A senior technical person on a good agile team is a leader/coach/mentor, not a manager.



Understood this. Are there ways to practice and develop some of these skill of leading/coach/mentor on our own without anyone asking us to be in that role and giving that chance?
 
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Satyaprakash Joshii wrote: i understand that he would be spending time outside team interacting lot with the customer and also with higher management. For 'finding opportunities and work for the team' , is it not the work of sales team rather than manager?


I think you misunderstood "outside of the team" to mean "outside of the company", but that's not what it means. Inside of the company, for the team - clearing away obstacles, working with other departments, improving working conditions etc.
 
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Project management is not a technical role in the sense that it requires the person to code or set up a network. It requires a lengthy course to become an accredited PM. Typically the PM liaises with management and multiple stake holders in the project to solicit business related detail, as well as with CIO for team building, skillset requirements etc. This is where the projected requirements for skillset, contractors and consultants are identified. One of the most important output is an agreed-upon, top-down project plan, and money is made available based on phases and deliverables. Again, here is where the PM recommends hiring contractors, outsourcing or not. The PM is responsible to management for the implementation of agreed business functions for each phase of the project, based on the aforementioned project plan.

The PM, however, should have a good understanding of the business e.g. investment banking - capital markets or supply chain - automotive. In this context, PMs will have to liaise with business analysts. Many PMs are hired based on their experience in the industry. An important criteria is the ability to interact with senior management  and I have seldom ever found technical people, particularly coders, able to talk indepth with business, let alone senior management. Remember, PMs are part of the team that identify the needs (what business advantage would it give us) and put a cost on the project. Some projects have tangible benefits, others are defined by regulatory requirements, again PM are involved in that, coders less so.

Based on pass experience, a lot of work and reports, agreements and accounting would have been done before coding starts. I found that the business side is often frustrated with technical people, particularly coders, and rather not interact directly, which can have unintended results. So, yes, it's helpful if PMs have some technical skills, at least to the extend they can communicate their requirements to coders and developers.

Also, PMs should have much closer contact with data architect to create data models of the business to be automated, as well as DBAs and the system architects because they have to operationalize the product with the hardware and network at their disposal. Again, decisions on cost and hiring contractors or not.

Those are my experience. I am not a professional coder.
 
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What if I require a PM to implement a project based on Basel III framework for compliance with global financial stability, with emphasis on capital market; capital adequacy ratio and liquidity. Prior exposure to repurchase agreements highly regarded. The will have to be comfortable interacting with senior management from bank, regulatory commission, with SEC and Treasury. Some interactions with EU counterparts required.

Would that result in an I.T. project? Oh yes, a few, they may even have project plans that report to a master project plan

Would you be comfortable sitting in a conference room meeting with these people, talking a language you probably don't understand? Would you be productive writing reams of project reports?  If not, then leave that to the PMs.

That said, what you want is a technical PM specializing in I.T. projects. That may be the career stream you are looking for, and I have seen quite a few of those. Yes, it helped that these PMs understand tech, perhaps was a techie. But you still have to deal with people, talk with them, communicate.
 
Satyaprakash Joshii
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Thank you. There are differences between all roles and I will read more about that. I understood  experienced members will be having leadership not necessarily manager skills.
 
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