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Where Does a Project Manager Fit in Scrum? part 2

February 6th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

In our last post, we described an exercise for discovering how traditional Project Management duties are shared by the 3 Scrum roles. We raised the question: Is there still enough left to justify a Project Manager? If not, what is the PM to do?

I can identify 5 scenarios. You may have others to contribute.
  1. The PM has other things to do that we did not identify. This could be the case if the PM has many projects or plays some other role in the organization. Or they may have other things to do that are not getting done during daylight hours. This idea comes from a similar exercise from Pete Deemer that I patterned this one after. It is used to answer the same question about functional managers. See this article for an eye-opening revelation about the great opportunities for managers when development teams are self-organized.
  2. The second scenario is that the PM assumes the role of ScrumMaster. A recent parade of job requisitions marching past my desk suggest that many companies are conflating PM and SM. This sounds like a risky proposition to me but it is understandable that people with limited understanding of Scrum might make this mapping from SM to what appears to be the closest position in a traditional software development organization.

    Can the Project Manager become the ScrumMaster? I think the answer is “yes”, provided some shifts in perspective and expectations are made. Some PMs have an easier time of it than others. At the APLN/PMI event we had more time for this exercise than I have in the CSM class so we took it a bit farther. We explored the differences between a PM and a SM by collecting answers to two questions. Note that the answers came from PMPs, not from me. I do not have training as a Project Manager.

    • What do we expect from a ScrumMaster that is different from what we expect from a traditional Project Manager?
      • Coaching
      • Bring out the best in the Team
      • Don’t try to control the Team
      • Spark new thinking, facilitate creativity
      • Actively building trust
      • More learning from others
    • What are some new opportunities available to existing Project Managers?
      • Professional development for self and others
      • Help people be more self sufficient
      • Become an Agile coach
      • Align self with strategic goals of the organization
      • Have higher expectations of the people doing the work
  3. In a contracting situation, the Project Manager is in charge of the business relationship with the customer. This one shows up in the table as a line item but there is a lot to it. We are not talking about the Product Owner role here, that of defining the functionality desired by the client. We are talking about the day to day communication that a PM does to keep the client in the loop and up to date on contractual matters. There is not really a Scrum role for this – it is outside of the basic Scrum framework. Or is it?
  4. I have encountered another scenario in a company that builds musical electronics. They have a PM on the Team who has the job of handling the deliverables between the software Team and the hardware team.
  5. Agile multi-team product development groups sometime have a Project Manager to coordinate the flow of information across teams and from teams to other stakeholders. While a Scrum of Scrums does some of this, a PM role has emerged in some cases.
So there you have it – some ideas of what the Project Manager might do when Scrum comes to town.  Try this exercise on your own when the question comes up. See what your people learn for themselves when they do it.
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  1. Dan Rawsthorne
    February 27th, 2011 at 23:08 | #1

    I think you have misunderstood the main responsibility of the Product Owner. You have defined it as “defining the functionality” bu the actual definition is probably “accountable for the value of the Team’s results”. The key here is the accountability. A Team can have business analysts separate from the Product Owner; the PO’s job is to make decisions on priority of the Backlog – not to add the Stories to the Backlog, that can be done by anybody.

    According to the PMI, the Project Manager’s main responsibility is accountability for the delivery of the Project’s Goals, which usually means accountability for the Product. If the PM is on the Scrum Team, therefore, either we change our definitions of PM and PO, or the PM must be the PO.

    Under no circumstances should the PM be the SM (using the standard definitions) because the SM is a servant leader, and being accountable for the Product would be a direct conflict of interest – this is why Scrum forbids the SM from also being the PO. Of course, either the PO or SM could do many of the lesser responsibilities of the PM, like monitoring progress, metrics, and so on… but only the PO could be the PM.

    Of course, if a Team or Organization redefines the terms SM, PO, and PM, all bets are off… Dan ;-)

  2. May 24th, 2011 at 06:35 | #2

    Waterfall is Scrum in a jug! You don’t need PMI training to be a manager, master or owner…you need skills.

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