What happens to an Agile Transformation when new people are recruited into the company in senior positions? Well, obviously it depends on the people and the positions they occupy, but it can be quite disruptive. Here’s an example:
One company I know of has committed to changing their working culture and are adopting DSDM as their Agile method of choice. But in order to change, new people were brought in. Among them, a new Head of IT, and a Portfolio Manager. Neither were experienced in Agile methods or techniques and neither were familiar with the ethos, values and principles of Agile either. One of the first changes seen was that the project managers were moved from their desks scattered around the building (although mainly on one floor) to one room around the Portfolio Manager himself. So who benefited from that?
If we consider the project manager’s role, which is mainly outward-facing, it shouldn’t have been too big a problem, since the Team Leader (equivalent to a Scrum Master) would still be sitting with the team. But not all teams were big enough to warrant a Team Leader, but a Project Manager was still assigned, and playing both the PM and Team Leader roles. For them, it was a bigger problem.
Seating the PM with his/her team means that any impediments the team encounter, any difficulties they experience can be immediately understood and dealt with. The PM can stay abreast of changing circumstances and understand what’s really going on inside the team, to the benefit of the team and therefore the organisation as a whole.
Seating the PMs together with the Portfolio Manager means the PM can provide information to the Portfolio Manager more quickly, but now has less interaction with his/her team and so has less to communicate. This situation benefits only the Portfolio Manager, and even then not very much, because the quality and detail of any communication is reduced. But what message does this send to the team members? That you don’t need your manager close to you? That he/she is somehow ‘special’? That he/she is more important or part of a different team?
None of those messages is very positive or helpful. Since the Project Managers do not collaborate on a daily basis – they work on different things – there is little point seating them together. Seat them where they can support their teams.