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Redefining Project Functions, A Scrum Perspective (From PM to PSM 2)

January 16, 2024

When people hear about projects there are a number of functions quickly jumping to mind including providing oversight and coordination, presenting objectives and feedback, facilitating and supporting, providing business direction and insight, providing resources and direction, maintaining governance, and more.

While professional project managers understand that these should be collaborative efforts with and by the entire team, we still see that in a lot of, if not most cases, senior management is looking to the project manager for all these aspects as being the single accountability.

An agile organisation, using the Scrum framework will deal differently with these so called functions.

Let’s have a look at what the Scrum framework offers. And by no means can I be complete in one blog post…

Providing oversight and coordination, includes planning, monitoring and controlling. A Product Owner, expecting to maximize value, brings oversight by having a well ordered Product Backlog. The Product Backlog shows what is most important to focus on first. It also shows what we currently think will be the next most important items to work on. A Product Backlog, if well implemented, therefore provides a longer term view on the product. It’s a planning artefact.

Items on the Product Backlog get refined. Bigger items are split into smaller more precise items. By having visibility on which smaller items remain to have covered, the bigger items provides a ways of monitoring and controlling progress.

Presenting objectives and feedback is mainly about goal-setting and getting perspectives and insights from customers and end-users. The Scrum framework guides us with three commitments: Product Goal (where do we want to be in a couple of months), Sprint Goal (where do we want to be in a couple of weeks), Definition of Done (which in fact is the quality goal; at any time, where do we want to be when we release).

Getting feedback takes place during multiple events. The Sprint Review allows you to get feedback on the latest version of the product at the end of every Sprint. Refinement workshops allow you to get perspectives and insights before the implementation work starts. While the implementation is ongoing, continuous interaction with end-users is possible to ensure we had the same understanding during the refinement activities.
And all of these are team efforts.

In project terminology, facilitating and supporting is often related to ensuring participation, collaboration, a shared sense of responsibility, creating consensus, etc. Very often this happens through coordination meetings. All on the shoulders of the project manager.

The Scrum Master is accountable for the team’s effectiveness. And all of the above aspects do support team effectiveness. So in a way facilitating and supporting is something for what we would look towards the Scrum Master (maybe this is what you want to pick up in the future, dear project manager).

But let’s take it a step further. What if the Scrum Master is out - sick - for a few months. What happens? A Professional Scrum Master is coaching, mentoring, facilitating the team so that they themselves can take up these topics. Coach the team members in holding each other accountable. Coach the team in practices so they themselves have ways to come to agreements on which option to decide upon. Coach the team in practices that foster collaboration without the need of a third party to say they need to work together on a daily basis. Coach the team in practices to solve their conflicts in an open and constructive way.

One more: providing business direction and insights. In a project oriented organisation, people will look to the project manager for clarifying the direction, for prioritising requirements, for interacting with stakeholders.

Using the Scrum framework one almost immediately links these aspects to the Product Owner (so dear project manager, this might be your cup of tea). Sure, the Product Owner sets the direction, using a product vision and a Product Goal. Sure, the Product Owner orders the Product Backlog. Sure, the Product Owner interacts with stakeholders.

But team members can also order Product Backlog Items during refinement activities. And team members will also interact with stakeholders to shorten feedback cycles, to gain insights during refinement activities, to understand during a Sprint Review what the next best thing would be to implement. (so maybe in your current context you would like to be more of a team member, dear project manager?)

Functions, traditionally linked to a project manager, in a Scrum adoption become skills that all team members need. Depending on their accountability, the focus a team member has for a give skill will be different. Still the skill stays important.


  • Evaluate within your organisation which functions are almost automatically linked to a project manager.  
  • Inspect the purpose of these functions. What is really expected as an outcome of these? Why is it even expected these functions are covered?
  • Inspect how these functions relate to the different accountabilities in a Scrum team, being the Product Owner, the Developers, and the Scrum Master.
  • Evaluate what would be a better way of ensuring the purpose of these functions is still achieved (if the function is still needed) while making professional use of the Scrum framework, and what a first good step could be.


I hope you find value in these short articles and if you are looking for more clarifications, feel free to take contact.


If you want to take a deeper dive into the concepts we are covering in this blog series, then surely check out our Professional Scrum MasterY workshop. We have some scheduled in the coming period.


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Wishing you an inspiring read and a wonderful journey.
Scrum on.




From PM to PSM


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