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Project Managers & Scrum

June 22, 2018

Role of the Project Manager in Scrum

There is often confusion when organisations transition to an agile way of working, particularly with the mapping of roles. A common question is how do Project Managers work with Scrum.

Scrum does not have the Project Manager role. The work is completed by the 3 roles in the Scrum Team.

Product Owner

  • Product Planning (Scope) 
  • Financial Planning 
  • Stakeholder Collaboration 
  • Tracking of progress at higher level

Development Team

  • Detailed Planning 
  • Tracking of progress with Sprint 
  • Quality Control

Scrum Master

  • Following the process 
  • Removal of impediments 
  • Team improvement

Predictive versus Empirical

The two paradigms are fundamentally different in their approach to work, however they have the same intent or business outcome in mind.


How progress is measured and communicated is different, as the approaches are different. The purpose is to review where progress is with respect to the initial plan, and a significant aspect is the level of detail and granularity in the plan.

In predictive management it is primarily the Project Manager who is responsible for tracking against the plan. This may be a tracking Gantt chart, with exceptions escalated. The Project Manager is the role that cascades the information.

Within Scrum the whole team is responsible for tracking at the various levels. The Daily Scrum and Sprint Review are events where there is a direct focus on progress, and how to get work delivered. This will be monitored with the Sprint Burndown, and Release Burndown.

The common factor is to make the visibility of progress highly visible, and this is the purpose of using the different reporting types.


Risks are managed very differently. In Prince 2 there is a Risk Management Strategy to identify and manage Risks. Within Scrum Risk is one of the many factors affecting the Product Backlog order. The primary way to mitigate risk is to resolve the risks by delivering a working product increment. Delivering working products will mitigate business, technical and market risks by making sure early in the project life that we are delivering what the customer has asked for. This mitigates risks by building functionality as quickly as possible to gain feedback in order to make any needed changes and by validating any assumptions made about the functionality.

Financial Model

Both processes will require a business case to start doing further work on the product. The model is based on the estimation basis.


  • Budget Baseline defined on initialisation
  • Return on Investment (ROI) forecast
  • Variable spend dependant on people and resources in use
  • Value delivered at the end


  • Initial forecast, adjusted each Sprint
  • ROI reviewed every Sprint
  • Steady spend based on stable teams, with Spikes from additional resource spend
  • Value delivered every Sprint


All the agile frameworks are designed to be flexible, and allow for a minimal cost to re-plan. The Product Backlog is the instrument of planning at the Product and Release level, with the Sprint Backlog as the instrument at the Sprint level.

Within predictive Project Management, changes are managed by a Change Management Process when the variability triggers an exception beyond the bounds of tolerance set for the required level. The cost is proportional to the size of the change.

Where will the Project Managers fit? 

The key is the style of interaction. Predictive Management tends towards a command and control model of status updates and direction. Scrum is based on servant leadership, facilitation and a “pull not push” model.


Model 1: The Project Manager as an engaged stake holder

Stakeholders in Scrum


The Project Manager (PM) assists the Product Owner (PO) and the Scrum Master (SM) with their respective duties

For this to be effective the style of interaction needs to be collaborative, with the PM working within the framework. They should respect the process and not disrupt events looking for updates.

The PM can then support the wider organisation with understanding tracking artefacts from the Scrum process.

Model 2: The Project Manager as a Scrum Master or Product Owner

When the circumstances are appropriate and the Project Manager demonstrates the correct behaviours (pull not push, ask don’t tell), they could choose to become either a Product Owner or a Scrum Master. The choice would be based on what the person favours – the business value focus or the framework and problem resolution.

If they prefer the stakeholder collaboration and business value – move towards the PO role, alternatively the SM role.

Model 3: Work on predictive projects

If their preference is to remain working in the same way, they should remain working on predictive projects to manage projects that are deemed to be run in a predictive way. If the individual is not willing to engage with the people in an agile way, their behaviour can become disruptive - reducing transparency and undermining self organisation.

Myth: The Project Manager is a senior role

Within many organisations undergoing transformation there is a misconception that the Project Manager is senior role to either the Product Owner or Scrum Master. This is not the case. For the agile implementation to function, the Project Manager may work as a shock absorber between the Scrum Team and the organisation. It is critical that they do not act as a filtering lens, distorting the view or watering down the transparency of how the team works.


Project Managers and the PMO

Scrum does not have the Project Manager role. The responsibilities are completed by the 3 roles in the Scrum Team. We have discussed three ways that a Project Manager can work with Scrum.

The key is the style of interaction. Predictive Management tends towards a command and control model of status updates and direction. Scrum is based on facilitation and a “pull not push” model.

It is naïve to think that to change to working with Scrum, first you need to dismantle the PMO and release all the Project Managers. That is wasteful, as these people are usually the ones who know how the organization really works, and have abundant experience in seeing work delivered. The focus should be on helping them understand the new work model, and enlisting their support in the transition.

The role of the PMO

The role of the PMO is to support the Portfolio, Program and Project work for the organisation. This will cover the execution and governance of work, as well as maintain a focus on effectiveness across the enterprise.

A well-functioning PMO will have an understanding of the work in flight, and have a significant amount of experience and political influence. For the transformation to be successful, the PMO needs to align with the new model, and support the change in process.


This blog was originally published on the Advanced Product Delivery Blog

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