One of the biggest challenges for Project Managers in making the transition to Agile has to be the way that they need to do their daily job.  The PM is typically the leader of the project, the one that sets the pace and direction, that makes all the key decisions to ensure that the project is finished “On time and on budget”. This changes when they work on an agile project as they are not in front of everyone directing what everyone is doing and creating report after report.

A project manager is responsible for the 5 stages of a project: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, Closing. They take responsibility for the project and nurture it and the team to get the required result.  The PM is used to, in fact instructed to be the guiding hand of the project, ensuring that the project is completed as per the PM’s wishes.  The PM has to lead in order to do their job.

Contrast this with the role of Scrum Master or even the Product Owner.  Each of these roles has a responsibility to make sure the project is going smoothly and that the team is operating at its optimal level.

The Scrum Master is not the leader of the project, but they do play a crucial role. The Scrum Master is more of a coach for the team, helping them produce the work, but they don’t manage the team.  The responsibility is more towards making sure that the Scrum process is followed, removes roadblocks and supports the product owner.

Not everyone can make the shift from PM to SM, and many just shouldn’t even try.  The mindset and skills to lead from behind is much different than the PM’s direct managing/ordering work done.  In order to make the transition a PM would have to let go of their ego and realize that the project does not revolve around them, but instead it revolves around the team.

It seems that a Project Manager is like a babysitter and they treat the team like a bunch of children; if they don’t do what the PM says they get in trouble, they have do bet watched at all times, you need to report to management (the parents) what the team is doing, the PM mediates disputes, and if something bad happens the PM is blamed.

The Scrum Master, however, is more like the coach of a professional sports team; everyone knows their role and is eager to do what they do best, the SM guides the team and keeps them aware of the rules, each member of the team helps other members collaboratively and the success of the team is shared equally.

Being a SM is more about enabling the team to do their best work possible and removing any barriers to success.