Difference between a Scrum Master and a Project Manager

What is the difference between a Scrum Master and a Project Manager?

Often the role of a Scrum Master is mistaken for being similar to the role of a project manager. In my experience one of the reasons why this comparison started in the first place was due to the lack of understanding of Scrum when organisations transitioned to using Scrum for product development. There is a believe that when moving from traditional project management approach to Scrum, there is a simple one to one mapping of accountabilities and responsibilities. In project management, there is a project manager who looks after and communicates the project plan, is responsible for budget, reporting, dependency management and keeping the team on track. Organisations believed that a Scrum Master must be the role within Scrum that looks after the above activities.

Scrum and project management are fundamentally different, Scrum is a framework designed to helps teams and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems.

Projects in contracts are temporary endeavours, with a start and end date to organise a team to ensure a set of tasks are completed on-time and within budget.

The two roles are very different and have very different objectives. They were designed and created for different purposes.

Let us see the difference between a Scrum Master and a Project Manager:

The Scrum guide define the Scrum Masters as are true leaders who serve the Scrum Team and the larger organization.

Scrum Masters:

  • The Scrum Master is accountable for the Scrum Team’s effectiveness
  • They manage the Scrum process
  • Help the team to adhere to Scrum values, practices, and rules
  • Accountable for removing obstacles that are preventing the team from making progress
  • Coach the team in the use of Scrum and agile principles
  • Leading, training, and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption;
  • Planning and advising Scrum implementations within the organization;
  • Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact an empirical approach for complex work
  • Removing barriers between stakeholders and Scrum Teams.
  • Helping the Scrum Team understand the need for clear and concise Product Backlog items
  • Helping establish empirical product planning for a complex environment; and,
  • Facilitating stakeholder collaboration as requested or needed.
  • Coaching the team members in self-management and cross-functionality;
  • Helping the Scrum Team focus on creating high-value Increments that meet the Definition of Done;
  • Causing the removal of impediments to the Scrum Team’s progress; and,
  • Ensuring that all Scrum events take place and are positive, productive, and kept within the timebox.

Project Managers:

  • Plan, execute, and deliver projects within scope, on time, and within budget
  • Assign tasks and responsibilities to team members
  • Monitor and control project progress
  • Communicate with stakeholders to keep them informed of project progress and issues
  • Manage risks and issues that arise during the project

In summary, Scrum Masters focus on is in helping scrum teams being effective by facilitating and coaching the Scrum Team to deliver value, while project managers focus on planning, execution, and delivery of the project.

How to become a Scrum Master.