scrum master, The Agile Transition: Scrum Master vs. Project Manager, Eylean Blog, Eylean Blog

Making an Agile transition is a full on organizational change. Workflows, processes and even team roles need to be adjusted. However, all of it can be tricky as well. Understanding the key roles of Scrum often has a direct effect on the methodology succeeding or failing. And one of the most common misconceptions is that the Project manager and the Scrum master roles are pretty much the same.

Coming from the traditional project management point of view it could seem simple. You have a team in both cases, then a project manager to oversee the team which is renamed into Scrum master and then you have the senior management which in this case is the Product Owner. Seems right? Well, it isn’t.

In reality Scrum presents a completely different view onto how the projects are run. First of all the team is self-managing. That means there is no need to assign tasks and monitor work, just to review the results and steer them into the right direction which is done after every Sprint. Therefore with a changed concept of the team, the role of project manager changes completely.

Instead of having one person overseeing everything, Scrum has two people splitting the remaining functions. Scrum master is responsible for guiding the team into applying Agile practices in the best way and the Product owner holds the vision for the finished product and makes sure the team stays on the right track.


Project manager vs. Scrum master

scrum master, The Agile Transition: Scrum Master vs. Project Manager, Eylean Blog, Eylean Blog

To put it shortly, Scrum master and Project manager are completely different roles in these key aspects.

Team management

While both roles makes sure that the team functions well, the way to achieve it is completely different. Project managers hand out tasks, monitor deadlines and control the team to achieve the desired result. While Scrum masters focus solely on the application of Scrum methods. They help the team understand how it works, but have no say in task assignment, deadlines and other related matters.

Taking care of outside relationships

Another major part of both roles is managing not only the team, but the outside relationships as well. Project managers focus on communicating with senior management and other parties of the project to ensure the continuous progress. Scrum masters do the same, but with a slightly different angle. Once the initial team processes are set up and functioning, they help team members establish good communication lines with the outside contractors and teams. So instead of taking on the role themselves, they make sure the team does communication effectively.

Controlling the big picture

Lastly, there is no business without the big picture. Project managers aim to stay within the deadline, manage resources and control the team to achieve the end result. While Scrum masters look at the organization as a whole and help them achieve good Scrum implementation overall.


What does that mean for the project managers?

scrum master, The Agile Transition: Scrum Master vs. Project Manager, Eylean Blog, Eylean Blog

So you are a project manager over going an Agile transition and now seem lost? Well there is no need to worry, but you have to accept that your role will have to change. Scrum offers three basic roles and as a project manager you will have to choose the one that suits you the best.

If you were always a more hands on kind of a leader, becoming part of the team might be the best fit. You will have to actually perform tasks and execute the project, but this way you will stay very close to the action. As a team member you will feel the beating heart of the project daily.

On the other hand, if you were always more concerned with the big picture while letting the team handle day to day tasks alone, Product owner could be a great fit. You will communicate with clients and create the overall vision for the team to execute. You will get a chance to see progress during Sprint reviews and steer the team in the right direction to move forward.

Lastly, but this is not an often case, you could become the Scrum master. Keep in mind, that this role requires deep knowledge of Scrum, especially in the beginning when the team is adapting. But in case you are the one pushing for the transition and can offer your knowledge base to the team, this will be a great option.

No matter which Agile method you chose, going through the transition will mean great changes for you as a project manager. But have faith and do what project managers do best – gather information, analyze, and adapt your course.