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The Difference between a Scrum Master and a Project Manager

How is a Scrum Master different from a Project Manager?

Organizations sometimes misconstrue the role of a project manager with the accountability of the Scrum Master. While a project manager and a Scrum Master are similar in that they both work and interact with teams, there are distinct differences between their roles. 

Typically, a project manager manages a project from start to finish, setting milestones, timelines and coordinating the tasks needed to complete the project,  while ensuring that it stays within  budget, scope and time schedule. In addition to project activity, they also seek and address project risk issues while ensuring  that the work adheres to standards and requirements. The project manager can work effectively within a predictive or traditional environment, meaning that the scope of work and requirements for the project are clear and justify the detailed upfront planning. The project manager’s focus is based on plans and predictions, where status updates and milestones are important and they typically manage projects using a top-down and predictive approach. 

The Scrum Framework on the other hand, is based on an empirical approach, where the accountability of a Scrum Master is to establish and facilitate Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. They do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory and practice, both within the Scrum Team and the organization. The Scrum Master is accountable for the Scrum Team’s effectiveness in delivering value, enabling them to operate and improve as a self-managing and empowered unit that makes their own decisions about how best to complete their work. The Scrum Master’s focus is to lead and serve the Scrum Team by removing impediments and experimenting with different techniques and practices through a collaborative and empirical approach.

Where does a Project Manager fit in Scrum?

Despite these different approaches, project managers can contribute in an empirical and agile environment and their responsibilities do not disappear but become dispersed among the Scrum Master, Product Owner and Developer accountabilities. To learn more, the video, “Should a Project Manager Become a Scrum Master?,” explores the role of the project manager as they move toward an agile way of working.

In this webinar, Eric Naiburg, COO,, discusses the potential move to an agile way of working, the role of the Scrum Master, and what that means for people currently in the role of Project Manager.
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