Project Management

So You Want to Be a Scrum Master?

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-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.

Many organizations find the role of Scrum Master confusing. Starting from a waterfall context, they look for ways to compare and contrast the role with one they know — the project manager. The confusion, and debate, begins here. Are they separate roles? Are both roles needed on agile projects?

The arguments for a separate project manager and Scrum Master are focused around the different areas of accountability. To oversimplify, the project manager focuses on the work and the Scrum Master focuses on the team. The arguments for combining the roles—which generally means having a Scrum Master assume project management accountability—is that the leadership aspect of a traditional project manager and Scrum Master are similar. I’m not so sure that's the case, so let's explore.

The purpose of leadership

If you ask a project manager what it means to be a good leader, they’ll likely tell you that it’s about creating an environment where the team can perform to the best of their ability in order to achieve the goals of the project. The PM will talk about the importance of everyone feeling comfortable both as individuals and as part of the team. They will identify the ability to communicate effectively, to motivate and support the team and its members and to build respect and trust for everyone. All of those aspects also apply to the …

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