Project Manager and ScrumMaster: The Difference

Some think that these roles or positions if you will are one and the same. That a ScrumMaster can easily fill the role of a Project Manager and vice versa, however, a closer look reveals some large differences in mindset and execution. Let?s dig in.

Unlike a Project ?Manager? a  ScrumMaster is a servant leader, not a manager. The ScrumMaster is responsible for ensuring that the project is carried out according to the agile framework and values.

On the other hand ? the Project manager?s duties are broader and not always clearly defined. Some responsibilities include: building and managing the team, managing the timeline, the scope, the budget, and risk. This diversity of tasks makes the manager?s focus a desired commodity for all stakeholders on the project. 

Main Project Manager?s responsibilities

Managing the scope ? i.e. the total amount of work; defining all of the deliverables and the WBS (work breakdown structure). Understanding which tasks are within the scope and which are outside of the scope?s boundaries.  

Managing the timeline ? ensuring that all tasks are started and completed on time, controlling and extending the task duration if necessary. Also ? taking care of tasks ordering and interdependencies.

Managing the resources (the budget) ? this is a complex process, involving: estimation of required resources, planning (procurement) of resources, and resource control/ monitoring ? how are they spent during the project lifecycle.

Managing the people (team)  the Project Manager should always be helpful, honest, and transparent, and put the well being of his team ahead of his own. Also he should assist the team to achieve predetermined milestones.

Managing the risk can be abundant and very complex. It can negatively impact all three project components the budget, the timeline and the quality of the outcomes. The project manager should anticipate the risk, estimate the consequences and propose risk mitigation strategies. 

The Project manager should also resolve issues that obstruct the team?s progress. He can do this by removing them himself, enlisting others to take care of them, rallying the team to overcome them, and/or introducing a change in policy or rules in the organization.

Main ScrumMaster responsibilities

The most important task of the ScrumMaster is to ensure that Scrum is well-practiced. He doesn?t have to conduct Scrum ceremonies but it helps. He engages with the team, connects with stakeholders, and, most importantly he is an example by living Agile thus actively proliferating them with the organization. 

Another important duty is to organize and attend all Scrum ceremonies (daily Scrum meetings); he should carefully consider the scrum artifacts, and let the team optimize the process and their performance step by step in every subsequent sprint.

Also, an important duty is to build the capacity and agile maturity of all team members. It is important to improve their skills in using Scrum. If the ScrumMaster overlooks this, Scrum will not be applicable and will lose its power in effecting change as well as outcomes.

An advanced task of the ScrumMaster is to use Scrum to improve the creativity, learning, and abilities of the entire team. This is not an easy task and requires large support from senior management. And this is the responsibility that has the best chance of making a long-term and meaningful impact.

Soft Skills of Both roles

The successful ScrumMasters and Project Managers will always try to create a new management approach. It is well explained by the experts that the ScrumMaster should be the conscience of the whole team, and the Project Manager should be a leader.

Both of the roles are demanding and not easy. You should be patient, kind, passionate, hungry to learn, and to ask for support from others. If you want to become a ScrumMaster or Project Manager, adopt a curious mindset ? this will make your future role so much easier.

ScrumMaster vs and Project Manager

Basically, the ScrumMaster?s duty is to improve the team’s effectiveness and productivity. This is opposite to the focus on managing the project which is done by the Project Manager. Other differences between the ScrumMaster and Project manager include (not an exhaustive list):

Assist the team to use Scrum efficiently, and not managing the team;

Remove impediments (of all types), instead of removing only difficulties tied to the project deliverables and timeline;

Provide help to others in the facilitation of the key Scrum phases, instead of leading the status updates and giving direction;

Concentrate on the team’s progress, instead of focusing on the project plan;

Hold the team together after the project, instead of working with a group of individuals for the duration of the project, and then working with others for the next project.

However, this is only a shortlist of differences. There are other interesting concepts to note, such as the roles and responsibilities of a typical Project Manager. They are split between the ScrumMaster, Product Owner, and Team Members, but that?s for another article.

The best project teams, whether practicing an agile development framework or not, work together. They are focused on what?s best for the team and the project. Whether ScrumMaster or Project Manager the main goal is to deliver a product experience that exceeds customer and market expectations.