Role of the Project Manager on an Agile Project

July 30, 2018

As companies progressively adopt Scrum as the preferred project management method over traditional waterfall method, the subject of ‘role-mapping’ becomes more critical. Perhaps, one of the biggest challenges that organizations face when they move to Scrum is where does a Project Manager fit in Scrum?

We are so used to the role of a Project Manager that we often forget that it is merely a role and does not necessarily specify a position in an organizational hierarchy. The term ‘Project Manager’ has become so obvious that in many organizational set ups people are permanently designated as Project Manager. We have to understand the fact that project manager is not a permanently held designation in an organization; rather it’s a role that a person plays in a particular project when he manages that project.

A person may have the necessary skillset to manage a project but is not a project manager in that project until he plays the role of the same. The role of a project manager is defined by the responsibilities performed in that project and a named individual (Project Manager) just plays the role.

While transitioning to Scrum from Waterfall, we often do the mistake of trying to fit in a named individual (the Project Manager) into different Scrum Roles. Do not try fit in a Project Manager in Scrum project management setup; rather you should map the roles and responsibilities of a traditional project manager with Scrum roles and responsibilities and accordingly a named individual will play the role as per his skillset.

People often try to find synergy between the roles of a traditional Project Manager with that of a Scrum Master. In practice, both are very different.

A traditional Waterfall Project Manager works as a manager or leader for the project. He plans, makes decisions and manages the project and is accountable for accomplishing the project objectives. On the other hand, the Scrum Master only works as a facilitator and he or she is at the same hierarchical level as anyone else in the Scrum team. Any person who learns to facilitate Scrum projects can become the Scrum Master for a project or for a sprint.

The duties and responsibilities of a traditional Project Manager have been divided among all the three core roles in a Scrum project. The Guide to the Scrum Body of Knowledge (SBOK) has captured the differences of traditional project management roles and Scrum roles very nicely.


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