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In a poll of nearly 5,000 individuals conducted by the Scrum Alliance, 87% believed that Scrum made their team better. Moreover, 95% of those who used Scrum would continue using Scrum. Scrum is a type of agile framework designed to promote iterative, flexible development. Ultimately, Scrum is designed to deliver projects both faster and more accurate to client specifications. However, the role of a project manager is so incredibly different under Scrum than elsewhere that it can leave project managers feeling adrift. Here’s what you know.

Scrum is a Different Type of Project Management

In traditional project management teams, a project manager is a leader and an organizer. Project managers are responsible for nearly every aspect of the project. They are highly skilled, capable individuals who must utilize the resources available to deliver a satisfactory product.

Agile approaches work differently. In Scrum, the team as a whole is comprised of extremely intelligent, specialized, and capable employees. These employees are intended to be able to work under their own direction and, in fact, any further direction could serve only to distract them. Thus, the traditional tenets of a project manager can be actually discouraged under Scrum.

As Scrum has grown in popularity, project managers have found a way to remain critical and relevant to the team. However, this role is materially different from the role a project manager can traditionally expect to fill.

Project Managers on a Scrum Team

An agile project manager in this methodology is known as the Scrum Master. A Scrum Master’s role is dissimilar to traditional project management in many ways, but ultimately calls upon many of the same hard and soft skills that a project manager would have developed through the breadth of their training and experience.

Rather than a Scrum Master being in charge of a project, as a traditional project manager might be, the Scrum Master is instead more of a consultant or facilitator. The Scrum Master’s primary goal is to help their team achieve their goals, by finding solutions to their problems.

A Scrum Master is not ultimately accountable for the requirements and deliverability of the product; this is intended to be the role of the Product Owner. Scrum Masters are also not responsible for assigning work or getting the status of work to be completed: instead, the team members themselves are accountable for this. Scrum Masters do not need to consider the expectations of stakeholders; this is, again, the Product Owner’s role.

Instead, Scrum Masters facilitate and empower their team. Their team will self-organize, but the Scrum Master will provide support when problems are encountered. When disruptive issues occur, it is the Scrum Master who will deal with them.

In essence, the project manager under agile becomes less a coordinator and more of a troubleshooter. Rather than organizing the team, the project manager reacts to issues that would cause disruption to the team.

In a team of highly qualified, skilled individuals, this works far more elegantly. Team members are able to be autonomous and flexible, connecting with the project manager only when they have hit a roadblock and are experiencing issues. Project managers do not need to deal with the minutiae of the project day-to-day, but instead use their experience and expertise to deal with high-level issues that the other team members cannot.

In many ways, the Scrum methodology empowers project managers to do what they do best. Rather than having to deal with mundane tasks, or having to tell other team members how to complete their work, the Scrum Master focuses on reducing potential issues and facilitating a path towards success. For many project managers, this is what they excel at.

Transitioning to Scrum for a project manager may mean developing different skills and adapting existing skills. A Scrum Master is going to have to be less personally engaged in the day-to-day operations and will, in effect, need to be able to facilitate the freedom of their team while trying not to micro-manage. A project manager will aos need to be able to adapt to quickly changing situations, remain calm in a crisis, and be able to interface with a multitude of different personalities. Scrum Masters regularly need to deal with high-level situations and it is less their organizational skills that will be called upon and more their improvisational skills.

For the right candidate, a transition into Scrum is the perfect chance to evolve as a project manager. Scrum is the ideal methodology for project managers who find that they deal best when they are called upon to resolve issues, find solutions, and plan contingencies.