Project Management

Most Project Managers Make Lousy Scrum Masters

PMI Phoenix Chapter +1

Anthony is an enterprise agile Coach with Vitality Chicago, Inc. He has over 30 years of experience delivering large-scale business programs and IT projects. He specializes in helping organizations effectively apply Lean and agile principles and the Scrum framework to gain true business agility. He teaches a wide range of agile and Scrum training courses as well as the cultural elements that are necessary for agile to succeed. Anthony is the author of numerous blog posts and articles and two books: Agile Project Management and Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers. He has an undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and an MBA from Loyola University of Maryland.

Don't get mad at me. Though it may sound tough or critical, the reality is that most project managers make lousy scrum masters. I didn't make that up—I’ve been hearing it from multiple agile experts over the years, and I’ve witnessed it firsthand on more than one occasion. Being a project manager myself for many years, I can appreciate why this happens and how painful it might be to acknowledge that it’s true.

The good news for those of you who are great project managers is that it is possible to be a great scrum master as well, and I have some tips. But first, let's explore a little background and why I stand by my claim…

Understanding Why Project Managers Make Lousy Scrum Masters
I remember my first exposure to scrum. In the mid-2000s, I was reading about various agile methods and scrum in particular. I remember thinking that it only described developers and so would probably not be a great approach for any of my projects. Scrum didn’t fit my world view of how projects worked. And as a project manager, I didn’t see a place for me in the scrum framework.

A few years later, I took my first training class on agile, and then a little later I took the Certified ScrumMaster training course. The first trainer pointed out that there was no role for project managers in scrum, and he cautioned against having project …

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"You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother."

- Albert Einstein