From Project Manager to ScrumMaster

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting Inc., an Ontario, Canada-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

As project managers we have been conditioned to understand the importance of process and methodology. Our entire careers are defined by process areas, input, outputs, tools and techniques. Process and structure is what we are all about. And then Scrum comes along…

When a PM is first exposed to Scrum, it can seem as though there is very little if any structure--the team simply organizes themselves and gets work done in relatively uncontrolled sprints. That’s not the case, and the PM does have an important role to play. However, that role is different than in a traditional project: They are the ScrumMaster, and that requires different (but related) skills.

Okay, so Scrum does have some strange titles, but that doesn’t change the importance of the role. The ScrumMaster has a very important role to play:

  • They act to remove obstacles from the Scrum team that may hinder their ability to complete the work
  • They make sure that the team is undertaking their work in accordance with the rules and guiding principles of Scrum
  • They coach and guide the team

That doesn’t actually sound all that much different from a project manager, does it? It might be a little simpler, but the concepts are inherently the same. Let’s take them one at a time.

The Scrum team has to focus on completing work in the sprint …

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"Conventional people are roused to fury by departure from convention, largely because they regard such departure as a criticism of themselves."

- Bertrand Russell

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