I have often wondered what the general consensus was on a ScrumMaster being considered a project manager and vice versa. As I expected there was some controversy and lots of disagreement. This issue has relevance for both ScrumMasters and project managers and how they run the project or projects they are responsible for. The way the roles are defined (or evolving) should help you avoid potential conflict in your agile organization.
Let’s start with the Scrum Alliance and its assessment of the issue. To summarize what the Scrum Alliance argues, the project manager is a leader, decision maker, planner, and someone who manages the project and the team while being responsible for the business objectives that need to be met.
The organization describes a ScrumMaster as a team coach and facilitator who does not manage anyone but instead makes sure that Scrum processes are being followed. With this as our basis, let’s see what others have to say.
Slideshare.net offers us some differences between the two titles and focuses mainly on the role of the ScrumMaster. Projecttimes.com further breaks down the debate into why ScrumMasters are not considered project managers, and why they probably wouldn’t want to be project managers.
Stackexchange.com offers this question out to the IT community: Why can’t a ScrumMaster be a project manager? The results from the IT community came back and seem to support the hypothesis that ScrumMasters and project managers can’t be the same person.
As I continued my research into this question, time and time again I came up with pretty much the same answer—for the most part, the two roles are not congruent with one another. Not satisfied with everyone's agreeing, I wanted to see if someone argued the opposite. Someone has to say they are one in the same or at least can be.
First, I wanted to see if a project manager would make a good ScrumMaster. I found this blog that gives us several possibilities of who could fall into that role, including project managers, functional managers, and technical leads. I then went back to the Scrum Alliance website to get a firsthand account of someone who made the transition from being a project manager to a ScrumMaster.
Finally, I found someone who says there is no difference. The author of this blog has a good point: We all have roles to play, and maybe we are causing the debate to rage on because we can’t let go of the way things used to be done. I fall somewhere in the middle I guess; I see both sides of the argument.
How do you define the roles? Can they be one in the same?
Joe Townsend has been in the configuration management field for twelve years. He has worked for CNA Life Insurance, RCA, Boeing, UPS, and in state government. Joe has primarily worked with Serena tools, including PVCS Version Manager, Tracker, TeamTrack (Mashups), and Dimensions. He is an administrator for WebFocus and supports Eclipse users.