The Project Manager is not a Scrum Master

Acommon question that arises is whether the Project Manager should be a Scrum Master.

Project Managers are sometimes expected to take up the role of Scrum Master when their organization moves to take an agile approach. This may well occur without providing the Project Manager any training to take on this new and quite distinct role. However, a recent survey by found that fewer than one-third of organizations (31%) assign the role of Scrum Master to a Project Manager, and there are excellent reasons for this. There are a wide variety of people that might take the role of Scrum Master, depending on the organization. And it does not have to sit with the Project Manager role. Instead, the Scrum Master title should sit with the person who can do the best job of it. The following explains why the Project Manager is typically not a Scrum Master.

Different Skillsets And Activities

The two are not particularly closely aligned based on the nature of Project Managers and Scrum Masters, Even if it seems at first glance that they are. Managing a project is not the same as being a Scrum Master. Scrum Masters have the role of mentoring, teaching, coaching and facilitating. The project manager’s role ensures that the project runs on time and budget. This means that the Scrum Master relies on more of the so-called “soft skills” involved in helping people move forward. The Project Manager takes a more methodical and arguably more of a “hard skills” approach.

The ways they go about it are very different, even though both roles are interested in ensuring a high level of team performance and driving efficiency within the team. The Scrum Master facilitates and coaches, while the Project Manager assesses risk and manages issues and conflicts.

Looking closer at what Project Managers and Scrum Masters do in terms of activities, differences can be seen here too. Project Managers manage projects. In contrast, the role of the Scrum Master is to make sure the rules of the Scrum are followed and that the Scrum Framework is adhered to. Project Managers work across all areas of the project spectrum, while Scrum Masters will mainly focus on the three areas of scope management, quality management, and resource management. The Project Manager can commonly be responsible for a huge team. Scrum Masters work within scrum teams, which can be quite a lot smaller. Project Managers also plan regular project meetings as needed. The Scrum Master will hold a meeting every day for the scrum.

Even the emphasis on the work is different. Project Managers schedule and plan, and narrow in on costs. Scrum Masters are concerned with the value of the product. Importantly, Project Managers can serve in any industry, delivering projects. However, Scrum Masters only work in the IT industry, or similar related field. There are both subtle and not-so-subtle differences between the skills and activities of Project Managers and Scrum Masters.

The Issue Of Control

Ultimately, the Project Manager has a role that is focused on control. Project Managers handle project costs, time spent, scope, quality of the result, stakeholder management, risk and more. If the Project Manager is unsuccessful, they are accountable for this, and they will usually be blamed for issues. This means that the role of the Project Manager has to be based on control. Achieving this through each of the different stages of the project. Stages such as its initiation, planning, design, running, monitoring, change control and even the final evaluation.

The Scrum Master does not have an emphasis on control at all. Their role is ensuring everyone understands what their role is in the Scrum. Roles such as getting rid of impediments, coaching people, and ensuring that Scrum events occur. Importantly, they encourage the team to self-organise. This is not the same at all as the level of control that is involved with ensuring that project is managed effectively.

As a Project Manager, being controlling is a good thing. It means that projects get delivered to time and to budget. But being controlling by nature is hard to change, and Scrum Masters are not controlling. A person used to leading in command and control will find it difficult to adopt to softer leadership style of the Scrum Master.

What If I Still Want My Project Manager To Be The Scrum Master?

Having considered the evidence above, if you still believe that your Project Manager is the right person to be the Scrum Master, then there are some important steps you should take. You should review the experience they have working in the Scrum and additionally provide some Scrum training. Perhaps most critical of all, determine if your Project Manager has energy, enthusiasm and interest for putting the Scrum in place. If they do not, then the initiative will probably fail. Any effective Scrum needs a great Scrum Master who is interested in and committed to making it work. The good news is, it is possible to learn how to be a great Scrum Master, but you ensure that the passion to do so is there in the first place for this to succeed.


As has been seen, despite common misconceptions, the Project Manager is not a Scrum Master. The roles are different and require skill-sets and activities that might be considered conflicting. This is perhaps why less than a third of organizations assign the Project Manager to be Scrum Master. Not that your Project Manager cannot be a Scrum Master under any circumstances — they can. However, the circumstances and level of interest have to be just right to get it to work.

Until next time, you are up to date.

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