Is there a place for project managers in Kanplexity?

Is there a place for project managers in Kanplexity?

Kanplexity is an alternative approach to product development and project management, developed by John Coleman, that empowers teams to increase their agility and align customer objectives with organizational objectives and strategy.

Yes, there is a place for project managers in Kanplexity. In fact, there contribution and expertise are welcomed in Kanplexity environments.

Scrum versus Project Managers.

Scrum and the agile industry tend to have a negative view on project managers. It actively recommends that you remove project managers in the environment and replace them with what are known as accountabilities.

A scrum master, a product owner, and a team of developers.

In my view, this is a weakness.

Many people in the scrum master accountability don’t have a strong understanding of scrum, nor do they have a strong understanding of what a scrum master does and should be doing. The same is true of product owners, in my experience and observation.

A product owner is encouraged to act and think like the CEO of the product. They require a diverse range of skills, including product management, to act effectively in the role and help steer developers in the most valuable direction.

An inspired, creative, and collaborative individual who acts like an agile leader in the product development space. In my experience, they tend to act more like go-betweens than a powerful, visionary leader in the product development space.

We don’t want people to act as a go-between for developers and customers, we want the developers to be actively engaging with customers and stakeholders. We don’t want the product owner to be reduced to the role of a personal assistant, we need them to master many of the skills of a project manager, such as stakeholder engagement, risk management, and so forth.

So, whilst these are powerful accountabilities and are intended to make project managers obsolete in a product development environment, they very seldom do. It strikes me as a waste to abandon a project manager in an agile environment where they do possess valuable, necessary skills that can contribute positively to the product development environment.

Project Managers and Line Managers.

We already know that organizations have incredible project managers. We know that they have deeply experienced, skilled, and committed line managers. Why would we want to do away with that?

What value is there in failing to harness those skills, capabilities, and competencies?

Why are we cultivating these artificial accountabilities, such as the scrum master, to increase agile capabilities when agile leaders can do that way more effectively?

In Kanplexity, you have a guide which is effectively an agile leader.

As long as the person is demonstrating agile leadership capabilities and their behaviours and practices align with agile values and principles, I don’t see why a project manager could not fulfil that role.

Sure, it’s a step or two out of their traditional skillset and comfort zone, but it really isn’t hard to embrace agile values and behaviours, especially when you see how that impacts team morale and the effectiveness of your product development or project management environment.

I’ve witnessed project managers who are a lot more competent and effective in developing agile capabilities than a lot of scrum masters. I’ve witnessed project managers who are a lot more effective in helping to develop a great product than many product owners in the industry.

It’s simply a matter of retooling and upskilling for the 21st century.

The majority of skills, competencies, and capabilities necessary for an agile leader to thrive are within the arsenal of existing project managers. The agile industry should be embracing their contribution and encouraging their enthusiasm for agile product development.

Instead, scrum and agile purists reject the need for project managers and insist that they abandon their roles in favour of an accountability like a scrum master, developer, or product owner.

Kanplexity Framework

As far as I am concerned, a project manager could be an incredibly effective guide for the Kanplexity framework. Helping teams navigate uncertainty, complexity, and growing their agile capabilities in alignment with their product development capabilities.

Kanplexity is very clear about the behaviours required of a kanplexity guide.

It also helps with:

  • How the kanplexity guide should deal with complexity.
  • How to create and improve flow efficiently.
  • How to create environments where teams can thrive and increase their agile capabilities.

So, project managers are valued but we do need the more enlightened ones rather than the traditional command-and-control, authoritarian oriented project managers of old.


The kanplexity guide does provide some insights into what you need to be aware of, and avoid where possible, when transitioning to a more agile approach.

For example:

When a project manager sets up a dedicated team for a specific project, lots of those projects tend to be short-term or medium-term rather than long-term engagements.

Getting that going effectively can be tough initially, because teams need to pass through a number of phases before they begin to gel as a solid team, and as soon as they have achieved their goal, they disband and that is the end of that.

Kanplexity would encourage you to view the team from a long-term perspective and whilst you may look at fixed stage or fixed term projects, you want to focus on developing the team and keeping them together for future projects or product development initiatives.

If you have a 6-month project and it takes the team 2 months just to find their feet, you’re already under significant pressure to deliver and the team won’t be focused on anything other than getting work out the door.

They won’t be looking to improve organizational dysfunctions, remove organizational impediments, focus on continuously improving as a team, or even focusing on continuously improving the project or product that is being delivered.

You’re essentially losing two months of a six-month engagement, and you have to work through that entire process all over again as soon as you set up the next dedicated team for a short-term project.

In kanplexity, we would be actively recommending that you, as the kanplexity guide or project manager, seek to cultivate and nurture high-performing teams over the long-term.

This is just a single example of how  you can increase agile capabilities and tap into the benefits of agile product development simply by changing a pattern or behaviour.

So, in closing, yes there is definitely a place for project managers in Kanplexity but it would require a touch of reinvention and a willingness to embrace new behaviours and patterns.

About John Coleman

John Coleman has deep experience and expertise working with executives, #leadership teams and product development teams to achieve increased #organizationalagility and create environments where creativity and collaboration produce high-performance teams.

https://linktr.ee/johncolemanxagility – social and podcast links

https://linkpop.com/orderlydisruption – order training from right here

If you are interested in helping your team or organization achieve greater agility and want to explore agile training options, visit our training page.

If you value coaching and would like to work with a deeply experienced agile and executive coaching specialist, visit our coaching page.

If you are looking for an agile consultant that can help your leadership team identify an appropriate roadmap to organizational agility and take the most effective course of action in your agile transformation, visit our consulting page.

#agile #leadership #agileleadership #certifiedagileleadership #professionalagileleadership #psm #psm2 #scrum #scrumorg #xagility #executiveagility #xagility

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