Scrum Project Management: Where Does a Project Manager Fit In?

December 17, 2017

As companies progressively adopt Scrum as the preferred project management framework over traditional waterfall approaches, the subject of ā€˜role-mappingā€™ 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 ā€˜Project Managerā€™ has become so common that in many organizational constructs people are permanently designated as Project Manager. We have to understand the fact that project manager is not necessarily a permanently held designation in an organization; rather itā€™s a role that a person plays in a particular project when he or she manages that project.

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

While transitioning to Scrum from Waterfall, we often make the mistake of trying to fit a job description (the Project Manager) into different Scrum Roles. Do not try fit the Project Manager position in a Scrum project management setup; rather map the roles and responsibilities of a traditional project manager with Scrum roles and responsibilities and accordingly an individual will play the role as per his/her skillset. For example, traditional project managers schedule the project. In Scrum the Product Owner determines the order in which requirements must be met and creates a release schedule with the rest of the project team. The Scrum Team (development team) decides which ones to work on in the coming iteration (Sprint) and how they will do them. So, scheduling gets shared between the Scrum roles.Ā 

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

A traditional Waterfall Project Manager works as a manager or leader for the project. He or she plans, makes decisions, manages the project and is accountable for accomplishing the project objectives. On the other hand, the Scrum Master only works as a facilitator and coach, and he or she is at the same hierarchical level as anyone else in the Scrum Core 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 theĀ Scrum Body of KnowledgeĀ (SBOKā„¢ Guide) has captured the differences between traditional project management roles and Scrum roles very nicely.


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