When people ask me what a Scrum Master does, I always answer that it’s a sort of modern Project Manager. When I think about it analytically, I realise that there is so much more to cover in order to give a satisfactory explanation.
Maybe it’s time to explain the differences between Scrum Master and Project Manager and focus also on what they have in common.
Main differences between the Scrum Master and the Project Manager role
The Project Manager is a traditional role coming from the waterfall approach, where projects are usually handled in phases:
- Requirements gathering
His/her role is to literary handle the project through key controls, detailed documentation, and mechanisms of managing risks or issues that may arise throughout the life of a project.
In the last 15 years, the Project Management sphere has changed a lot and has seen the rise of an Agile approach that accommodates the highly volatile and always-changing world we live in.
In Agile, which is the environment where the Scrum Master comes into play, the traditional role of the project manager is split in two: Product Owner and Scrum Master.
The Product Owner is literary the owner of the Product. He/she sets the priorities, orchestrates the project’s stakeholders, and gives the overall vision of where the product should go.
The Scrum Master is the Process-owner, he/she makes sure the team is the most effective and productive they can ever be, facilitates meetings, helps the Product Owner in finding strategies to prioritise the backlog, removes impediments and so much more!
As you can see, the roles of the Project Manager and the Scrum Master are different but they have also a lot of similarities.
I personally don’t like long lists, so I’ll try to keep it short and focus on 4 of the most interesting skills that Scrum Masters and Project Managers have in common.
They foster collaboration
In rugby, “Scrum“ is a term used to explain the team’s goal to gain possession of the ball as a cohesive unit. Similarly in Agile, and specifically within the Scrum framework, the development team works together to achieve the same goal at the end of a short iteration.
While the squad stays focused on reaching the goal, the Scrum Master is the harmonic force that fosters collaboration with his/her mediation/facilitation skills inside and outside the team.
In a similar fashion, the Project Manager uses synergy strategies and processes to coordinate all the stakeholders involved in the project, including the development team.
In brief, both roles shape their influence in the business by making “collaboration” one of their core values.
They are people motivators
Project Managers and Scrum Masters have a genuine interest in people.
They are aware that the secret for successful products and projects are people 🙂
Sometimes, they can even transform themselves in people coaches to understand how can a project or product reach the desired outcomes by solving a problem or, simply, resolve conflicts within the team they work with.
They like being the team’s beacon or, as I like to think, the pump that injects fuel to the team.
They are “healthily skeptical”
“I want you to build this product, with this scope, for this amount of money within this timeframe”.
I am sure you are familiar with this sentence. If you are in the field you probably have heard it a thousand times!
Being “healthily skeptical” means to see past appearances. If someone wants a product completed by yesterday, a deep analysis needs to be performed and few contextual points need to be taken into account:
- Is the product the customer wants you to build really solving a problem?
- Is it worth taking the risk, ignoring budget and timelines?
- Is saying “yes” to everything the right approach?
- Can the company reputation afford failures?
- Does sacrificing quality bring additional value to what you are doing? Most of the times “quick and dirty” is not a win-win situation for everyone
Being skeptical and challenge people with “what“, “how” and above all “why” a product is being built is a characteristic that hard-working Scrum Masters and Project Managers share.
Those questions safeguard the integrity of the people who are working for the company, and both roles know it very well.
They are “ok” with change
New products introduce change. That’s a fact.
“Change is not a gate we pass through, it is the definition of life.” This quote by the young Millie Florence synthesises well the mindset of Project Managers and Scrum Masters: change is inevitable and, if managed well, it can lead to the most revolutionary and cutting edge transformations.
If you want to become a Project Manager or a Scrum Master, do not be overwhelmed by change but learn how to swim in it.
Now that we have listed 4 skills that Scrum Masters and Project Managers have in common, do you agree that these two roles are cut from the same cloth?