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Project Manager vs Scrum Master - Stop Comparing

May 10, 2020

Difference between Project Manager and Scrum Master. This is a very popular comparison, but why do we compare and what goes behind this comparison? These are 2 different roles that originated from 2 different process frameworks. It is like a goalkeeper in football vs full-back in Rugby. When goalkeeper switch to Rugby and start mapping old role in the new game, imagine what will happen? The goalkeeper will start playing football in Rugby. 

When you change the game, you learn new rules from scratch to get deeper insights to do a job better. If you find a Scrum Master role interesting then do it, else there are 2 more roles to choose from Scrum. 

This is my learning after observing many many teams understand why we waterfall within scrum. So what did I do? I stopped comparing and stopped teaching it in my Professional Scrum Master and Product Owner (PSM & PSPO) classes. After all, I don’t need to learn swimming to learn running just because my trainer always compares swimmers vs runners to make me understand the benefits of running. Yes, I changed my trainer 😊


Little more about these roles to understand why it is not good to compare?


Project Manager’s responsibilities as described in PMBOK® Guide

The project managers are responsible for what their team produces. The project manager is the person assigned by the performing organization to lead the team that is responsible for achieving the project objectives. The project manager leads the project team to meet the project’s objectives and stakeholder’s expectations. The project manager works to balance the competing constraints on the project with the resources available.

The project manager also performs communication roles between the project sponsor, team members, and other stakeholders. This includes providing direction and presenting the vision of success for the project. The project manager proactively interacts with other project managers. Other independent projects or projects that are part of the same program may impact a project. Interacting with other project managers helps to create a positive influence for fulfilling the various needs of the project.

Scrum Master’s responsibilities as described in Scrum Guide™

The Scrum Master is responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. Scrum Masters do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory, practices, rules, and values.

The Scrum Master is a servant-leader for the Scrum Team. The Scrum Master helps those outside the Scrum Team understand which of their interactions with the Scrum Team are helpful and which aren’t. The Scrum Master helps everyone change these interactions to maximize the value created by the Scrum Team.

Do you see differences between the role of Scrum Master and Project Manager? I don’t see. What I see is different processes altogether and both have different roles to play in order to maximize outcome.

Why do we compare?

Many project managers either choosing the role of scrum master themselves or getting asked to take this role by an organization when organizations decide to use Scrum to develop products. Comparison is a natural thing to do in order to relate what I am doing now and what I am expected to do in the future. Ideally, we should be comparing processes that this stage rather roles. This happens when we don’t have an in-depth understanding of a new process. First, we should compare new processes with existing ones. When you get understanding about how this new process works then better to learn new sets of rules and based on rules, picking a new role. The key thing here to remember, if you try mapping existing roles in a new process, most likely you will demonstrate old behavior in a new process.

I tried recording a video too, but writing a blog is still easier than recording and I look funny in video 😩 Please share your feedback as it helps me to improve and do the job better next time. 


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