The Role of a Project Manager in Scrum

We had a great turnout at DFW Scrum last TUE for "The Role of the Project Manager in Scrum". Many organizations struggle with what to do with the Project Manager when they have a Scrum Team. Chris Eberhardt and myself facilitated this fascinating conversation. The reality is, there is not "standard" or "cookie-cutter" approach to the answer. Every culture, company, value system, etc... are a little different (or a lot for that matter). So we took the approach of facilitating conversation more than giving answers, because honestly; most people in the group have the answers, they just need validation if they are violating Scrum values.

The one big point that does apply to each company is that while the role itself is not described in Scrum, the responsibilities and duties still have to be done. Typically those duties and responsibilities are absorbed by the 3 roles in Scrum (Product Owner, Scrum Master, or Development Team). We also found some duties that aren't necessarily part of Scrum, but needed by the organization to drive visibility, transparency, and coordination. Those burdens should be placed on the team and we should work together to figure those things out and who is best to serve those duties.

There are some organizations that exist where Development (the Scrum Team) is just a small piece of the overall "project". In that case, we might have a project manager taking the metrics from the Scrum Team and providing visibility to the overall timeline for the other pieces. In Software, many of the Go To Market (GTM) activities might not involve the Scrum Team at all. As such, a Project Manager might piece together the finished software with the sales, support, finance, etc...

In other cases, perhaps a Scrum Master fulfills those duties in tandem with the Scrum Team duties. It really just depends. Whatever the case, the word "Project Manager" should not be a deterrent to doing Scrum. Scrum is very adamant about some things and does not outline a role for Project Manager, that doesn't mean that we can't figure out how to carry out the functions of the role in its absence (or presence). Be pragmatic and work as a team to figure out what works best. A traditional Project Manager tends to have duties and responsibilities that violate the tenants of Scrum. That is why aspects of that role are transferred to specific roles on the team.

Don't let compliance and other "governance" terms deter you either. Those can be built into the definition of done for the team and considered in all aspects of our planning and completion. Naturally there are some governance processes that actually hinder productivity of the team, let's be transparent about that and show the impact of the team and then have the team propose some possible solutions.

Attached is our Deck used to facilitate the discussion, the big take-away is this: "What kind of organization are you"? Each one presents benefits and challenges of Scrum.

Types of Organizations

  • All Scrum Masters (0:n)
    • No Project Managers, only Scrum Masters
    • Not the same as all Project Manager titles have been replaced by the title of Scrum Master
  • One Project Manager and One Scrum Master (1:1)
    • Every project has a Project Manager and a Scrum Master
  • One Project Manager and Several Scrum Masters (1:n)
    • Every project has a Project Manager but there are several Scrum Masters

fa0c32_726bf4ac4bae4e0882adcaaaf0754e87.jpg#asset:181


Related Articles

Core Scrum Roles

Just like the US Government has 3 branches (Judicial, Executive, and Legislative Branches), Scrum has 3 roles. Many people compare the counter-balance of each roles in Scrum to that of the US Government. It's really about the checks and balances. But I truly believe it is even more than that...

Read More

Is Your Team Focused with a Sprint Goal?

One of the 5 values of Scrum is Focus. Too often, I will ask Product Owners "What is the goal of this sprint"? Their response? "To get all of these Product Backlog Items done!" (and they look at me like...duh!)  My question is focused on ensuring that our Development Team...

Read More