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The Transition from Project Manager to the Scrum Master

Scrum Masters and Project Managers are not the same rolesI am going to talk about moving from a Project Manager role to a Scrum Master. Why do we need to talk about it? Because many people think they are the same thing with different artifacts or different language being used. They aren’t.You may be considering a change of roles from Project Manager to Scrum Master. You may be forced into such change as your organization is subjected to an Agile transformation. You may find yourself juggling both the roles and struggling with the competing agendas embedded in the two roles.  What I want you to get from this essay is an appreciation of the differences between the Project Manager and Scrum Master and some ideas about how the role of the Project Manager fits into Agile.The benefits of being a great Scrum MasterThe first and obvious answer is the huge drive to have an Agile delivery capability in almost every organization in the world. It’s a hot new job and having these skills and experiences improve your employment prospects as you look for work.While there are still more Project Manager jobs than Scrum Master jobs on the jobs boards, the number of Scrum Master and similar jobs continues to grow, while the number of Project Manager jobs appears to be steady, and perhaps even shrinking in some markets.Additionally, more and more Project Manager roles require an understanding of and experience in Agile development and management methods, as project performance seems strongly correlated with the use of Agile methods.So, getting good in-depth experience in Agile working is an important step in your professional development, especially if you are a Project Manager involved in technology projects. Doing a job as a Scrum Master is an excellent way to immerse yourself in Agile world and learn the skills, knowledge, and behavior that will help you be a great manager and leader later in your career.But wait! There’s more.Many, many, many people who adopt the role of Scrum Master find their way into a new and fulfilling career. Scrum Masters and related coach type roles are inherently fulfilling for many people. Scrum Masters report a huge sense of satisfaction in being valuable team members and helping those around them grow in capability and deliver successful outcomes.  Becoming a Scrum Master may be the beginning of a whole new career track for you.Should a Project Manager be a Scrum Master?If you are a Project Manager entering the Agile world, you probably have the reasons to switch from the Project Manager role to the Scrum Master. You already have a definition of a Project Manager’s role in your head.  It is probably based on the PMI definitions around planning, monitoring, controlling and closing a project. Maybe there is something about the accountability for the outcomes, and using the project management industry’s established methods and practices. That’s all good and a great set of knowledge to have.But what about a Scrum Master?  The best resources to learn what is Scrum Master, what a Scrum Master does are from reading the Scrum guide and from talking to people who have experience in the role, most of whom are very generous with their time and enthusiastic about sharing knowledge and experiences.  The actual description of the Scrum Master role is very simple, clear and succinct.  The stories you get from the experienced people will help you see the complexity of those clear guidelines applied in complex situations.The most important contributions of the Scrum Master role are enabling the team by helping them unlock value from executing the Scrum framework well, being collectively disciplined and organized as a team, and in spending time and energy clearing impediments to the team’s progress.The change in accountabilityA Project Manager playing a Scrum Master role for the first time, would not be the first person to make the mistake of thinking the role is all about the process control. But it isn’t. It is an enabler role.As a Project Manager, you might hold accountability for creating a plan and for publishing progress reports against that plan to the Stakeholders.  As a Scrum Master, you are accountable for enabling the team to produce a plan and publish progress reports.  See the difference?You may end up being the person who grabs progress data and publishes it, but you are doing it in service to the team rather than to service your own delivery accountabilities. You may very little to do with publishing progress reports. Anybody on the team or the team collectively can perform that task.Your job is to help the team understand the need for progress reports, to help them find useful methods to get the job done, and to find the discipline to consistently do the job well.The Scrum Master is advised to use the Scrum framework as a tool to inspect and adapt to both the product demands and the capabilities of the team. As your team learns new things, they will prioritize the opportunities and make changes according to the way they operate.  You can help them identify the opportunities and implement them. There are several easy ways to access methods and tools to solve a variety of problems out there, both inside and beyond the Agile toolkits, but the team should not settle for any obvious best practice. Good practices should be used, not to be settled. Always seek better.  Tips for transitioning from Project Manager to the good Scrum MasterWe have already looked at how your accountabilities change, but a Scrum Master won’t succeed unless they approach the work with the right attitude.  Each team is different, so you should always assess the expectations of the team and the role you play. Also, you will be able to bridge any gaps by using some fair core values based behaviors that people expect from a Scrum Master.Servant leadership: The watchword!The Scrum Master role is a Servant Leader role. The Servant leaders seemingly face a conundrum that ‘how do I serve and lead at the same time’.  The answer is that you lead some things with authority based on the expertise and knowledge. You also step aside and let others manage their things based on authority, experience, and roles.For example the Product Owner in Scrum has positional authority on the backlog (that is supposed to be based on knowledge, but is also deeply positional.)You are expected to bring an authority, based on knowledge and experience around the  Scrum, team and system dynamics, and it should be valued by the team. To do this effectively you need to follow some tips for transitioning to the Agile Project Manager.Additionally, you need to know-How and why Scrum worksWhy does each of the attributes of Scrum bring value?What problems do they solve and why does that part of Scrum work the way it does?You also need to know why Scrum parts work more effectively when it is executed integratively. Knowing only what to do leads to cargo cult practices and doesn’t engender a learning origination that continually evolves.  New Scrum teams: Start with Big Bang?If you are working with a team which is new to Scrum or Agile practices, as an effective Scrum Master you should also have some expertise in the way you roll in or implement the new Agile ways of working. Should you do a big bang implementation of Scrum, or roll in one practice at a time? Which one should you start with? Which next?The answer will depend on the circumstances of the team and the Scrum Master should have enough experience and wisdom to have an opinion that the team value because ideally, the teams should be deciding how to roll in the practices.Asking outcome-focused questionsAn important operating method for Scrum Masters is to highlight issues and ask questions.  When and if people express interest in the topic being raised, the Scrum Master may then offer advice and suggestion options. Collectively, the team should engage in the issue and decide what to do.  If the Scrum Master feel that the teams are going to make a mistake, you think about whether the mistake will be small enough to be safe and whether the team will take lessons from the failure. If you see risks, raise them and try to influence the down team with the different paths.As you interact with the team, your experience and advice should become more valued by the team over time.  You should build a consistent track record of helping them become a more successful team. You should not have to try to force change, although sometimes you will feel like you do, and some even rarer times you may feel you have to invoke authority from the management to force something.The importance of feedbackScrum and the most Agile methodologies rely very heavily on fast and transparent feedback. As a Scrum Master, you have an initial feedback system laid out from you in the form of the Scrum ceremonies. These are just the beginning though. You and the team should continuously look to tune and improve your feedback systems so that the team can continually find better ways of delivering better business outcomes.Part of the Scrum Master’s role might be to look at the feedback system, to help the team assess whether they are the right ones and to find better ones.  Sometimes, a Scrum Master finds new ideas about feedback that a team might miss.  The team members are all heads down building products and solutions and often prioritize ‘the work’ over ‘the system’.But a Scrum Master can bring an outsider’s perspective, or might be more able to observe the wider system the team operates in. Don’t be afraid of expressing your observations and ideas to the team where you have an insight that they don’t have. That perspective can be very valuable.  You will often be the first to see when a change needs to be made and can let the team know it’s time to start thinking differently.Getting feedback on your own performanceHave a plan for how you are going to grow and become great at the role.  Pursue continuous incremental improvement by setting up regular short cycle feedback systems on yourself.  Pause and reflect on how you are going and what you should do to improve. Do it regularly, and no less frequently than the sprint cycle.  Keep checking with the team whether they need help and what they would like you to help them with, and when you are done, check what they thought of your efforts.Get experience, get training, get a coach or mentor and find a community of practitioners that you can connect with and learn from. Leverage the experience from others, as the people who do this work love to help others and make themselves generously available.Good luck with the transition!
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The Transition from Project Manager to the Scrum Master

396
  • by Craig Brown
  • 09th Oct, 2018
  • Last updated on 23rd Jan, 2019
  • 4 mins read
The Transition from Project Manager to the Scrum Master

Scrum Masters and Project Managers are not the same roles

I am going to talk about moving from a Project Manager role to a Scrum Master. Why do we need to talk about it? Because many people think they are the same thing with different artifacts or different language being used. They aren’t.

You may be considering a change of roles from Project Manager to Scrum Master. You may be forced into such change as your organization is subjected to an Agile transformation. You may find yourself juggling both the roles and struggling with the competing agendas embedded in the two roles.  

What I want you to get from this essay is an appreciation of the differences between the Project Manager and Scrum Master and some ideas about how the role of the Project Manager fits into Agile.

The benefits of being a great Scrum Master

The first and obvious answer is the huge drive to have an Agile delivery capability in almost every organization in the world. It’s a hot new job and having these skills and experiences improve your employment prospects as you look for work.

While there are still more Project Manager jobs than Scrum Master jobs on the jobs boards, the number of Scrum Master and similar jobs continues to grow, while the number of Project Manager jobs appears to be steady, and perhaps even shrinking in some markets.

Additionally, more and more Project Manager roles require an understanding of and experience in Agile development and management methods, as project performance seems strongly correlated with the use of Agile methods.

So, getting good in-depth experience in Agile working is an important step in your professional development, especially if you are a Project Manager involved in technology projects. Doing a job as a Scrum Master is an excellent way to immerse yourself in Agile world and learn the skills, knowledge, and behavior that will help you be a great manager and leader later in your career.

But wait! There’s more.

Many, many, many people who adopt the role of Scrum Master find their way into a new and fulfilling career. Scrum Masters and related coach type roles are inherently fulfilling for many people. Scrum Masters report a huge sense of satisfaction in being valuable team members and helping those around them grow in capability and deliver successful outcomes.  Becoming a Scrum Master may be the beginning of a whole new career track for you.

Should a Project Manager be a Scrum Master?
Project Manager be a Scrum Master?If you are a Project Manager entering the Agile world, you probably have the reasons to switch from the Project Manager role to the Scrum Master. You already have a definition of a Project Manager’s role in your head.  It is probably based on the PMI definitions around planning, monitoring, controlling and closing a project. Maybe there is something about the accountability for the outcomes, and using the project management industry’s established methods and practices. That’s all good and a great set of knowledge to have.

But what about a Scrum Master?  

The best resources to learn what is Scrum Master, what a Scrum Master does are from reading the Scrum guide and from talking to people who have experience in the role, most of whom are very generous with their time and enthusiastic about sharing knowledge and experiences.  

The actual description of the Scrum Master role is very simple, clear and succinct.  The stories you get from the experienced people will help you see the complexity of those clear guidelines applied in complex situations.

The most important contributions of the Scrum Master role are enabling the team by helping them unlock value from executing the Scrum framework well, being collectively disciplined and organized as a team, and in spending time and energy clearing impediments to the team’s progress.

The change in accountability

A Project Manager playing a Scrum Master role for the first time, would not be the first person to make the mistake of thinking the role is all about the process control. But it isn’t. It is an enabler role.

As a Project Manager, you might hold accountability for creating a plan and for publishing progress reports against that plan to the Stakeholders.  As a Scrum Master, you are accountable for enabling the team to produce a plan and publish progress reports.  

See the difference?

You may end up being the person who grabs progress data and publishes it, but you are doing it in service to the team rather than to service your own delivery accountabilities. You may very little to do with publishing progress reports. Anybody on the team or the team collectively can perform that task.

Your job is to help the team understand the need for progress reports, to help them find useful methods to get the job done, and to find the discipline to consistently do the job well.

The Scrum Master is advised to use the Scrum framework as a tool to inspect and adapt to both the product demands and the capabilities of the team. As your team learns new things, they will prioritize the opportunities and make changes according to the way they operate.  

You can help them identify the opportunities and implement them. There are several easy ways to access methods and tools to solve a variety of problems out there, both inside and beyond the Agile toolkits, but the team should not settle for any obvious best practice. Good practices should be used, not to be settled. Always seek better.  

Tips for transitioning from Project Manager to the good Scrum Master

We have already looked at how your accountabilities change, but a Scrum Master won’t succeed unless they approach the work with the right attitude.  Each team is different, so you should always assess the expectations of the team and the role you play. Also, you will be able to bridge any gaps by using some fair core values based behaviors that people expect from a Scrum Master.

Servant leadership: The watchword!

The Scrum Master role is a Servant Leader role. The Servant leaders seemingly face a conundrum that ‘how do I serve and lead at the same time’.  The answer is that you lead some things with authority based on the expertise and knowledge. You also step aside and let others manage their things based on authority, experience, and roles.

For example the Product Owner in Scrum has positional authority on the backlog (that is supposed to be based on knowledge, but is also deeply positional.)
You are expected to bring an authority, based on knowledge and experience around the  Scrum, team and system dynamics, and it should be valued by the team. To do this effectively you need to follow some tips for transitioning to the Agile Project Manager.

Additionally, you need to know-

  • How and why Scrum works
  • Why does each of the attributes of Scrum bring value?
  • What problems do they solve and why does that part of Scrum work the way it does?

You also need to know why Scrum parts work more effectively when it is executed integratively. Knowing only what to do leads to cargo cult practices and doesn’t engender a learning origination that continually evolves.  

New Scrum teams: Start with Big Bang?

If you are working with a team which is new to Scrum or Agile practices, as an effective Scrum Master you should also have some expertise in the way you roll in or implement the new Agile ways of working. Should you do a big bang implementation of Scrum, or roll in one practice at a time? Which one should you start with? Which next?

The answer will depend on the circumstances of the team and the Scrum Master should have enough experience and wisdom to have an opinion that the team value because ideally, the teams should be deciding how to roll in the practices.

Asking outcome-focused questions

An important operating method for Scrum Masters is to highlight issues and ask questions.  When and if people express interest in the topic being raised, the Scrum Master may then offer advice and suggestion options. Collectively, the team should engage in the issue and decide what to do.  

If the Scrum Master feel that the teams are going to make a mistake, you think about whether the mistake will be small enough to be safe and whether the team will take lessons from the failure. If you see risks, raise them and try to influence the down team with the different paths.

As you interact with the team, your experience and advice should become more valued by the team over time.  You should build a consistent track record of helping them become a more successful team. You should not have to try to force change, although sometimes you will feel like you do, and some even rarer times you may feel you have to invoke authority from the management to force something.

The importance of feedback

Scrum and the most Agile methodologies rely very heavily on fast and transparent feedback. As a Scrum Master, you have an initial feedback system laid out from you in the form of the Scrum ceremonies. These are just the beginning though. You and the team should continuously look to tune and improve your feedback systems so that the team can continually find better ways of delivering better business outcomes.

Part of the Scrum Master’s role might be to look at the feedback system, to help the team assess whether they are the right ones and to find better ones.  Sometimes, a Scrum Master finds new ideas about feedback that a team might miss.  The team members are all heads down building products and solutions and often prioritize ‘the work’ over ‘the system’.

But a Scrum Master can bring an outsider’s perspective, or might be more able to observe the wider system the team operates in. Don’t be afraid of expressing your observations and ideas to the team where you have an insight that they don’t have. That perspective can be very valuable.  You will often be the first to see when a change needs to be made and can let the team know it’s time to start thinking differently.

Getting feedback on your own performance

  • Have a plan for how you are going to grow and become great at the role.  Pursue continuous incremental improvement by setting up regular short cycle feedback systems on yourself.  Pause and reflect on how you are going and what you should do to improve. Do it regularly, and no less frequently than the sprint cycle.  
  • Keep checking with the team whether they need help and what they would like you to help them with, and when you are done, check what they thought of your efforts.
  • Get experience, get training, get a coach or mentor and find a community of practitioners that you can connect with and learn from. Leverage the experience from others, as the people who do this work love to help others and make themselves generously available.

Good luck with the transition!

Craig

Craig Brown

Blog Author

Craig’s roles over the past 20 years have involved leading project management teams, projects and programmes, consulting, training and coaching in a variety of aspects of project delivery. Most recently Craig was a program manager on Telstra’s Customer Advocacy journey, working with culture change, Net Promoter Scores, and lean-style customer centred process improvements.

Apart from the disciplines of project and portfolio management Craig is also an Agile and Lean enthusiast with a focus on the collaboration and cultivation aspects of agile practices and methods. Craig runs the Melbourne Scrum User group and also runs meetup groups for Agile business analysis and agile project managers where he helps people navigate their way from traditional roles and thinking to modern ones.

Craig also co-created the LAST conference which is a low cost community driven conference focusing on lean, agile and systems thinking.

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Why An Agile Project Management Certification Is The Right Choice?

Professional certification courses for Agile methodologies is available for IT professionals who have worked in Agile projects or who have worked in complex software projects. These certification courses are designed to test your knowledge and competence of the Agile framework. Though there are several Agile-related certification courses available in the market, most of them can be categorized under the umbrella of 2 main categories namely, Project management-based or Scrum-based. This article discusses the details of these 2 categories of Agile certifications and recommends which is the right one to pursue. About Agile Project Management certification The purpose of Agile project management is on developing software solutions incrementally to enable project teams to respond effectively to change in customer requirement, while delivering the product in quicker time to the customer. A certification course in Agile project management is designed to explain the foundation of successful agile projects and on how to manage the project from the start to its completion. An IT professional, certified in Agile project management, has the following benefits: Develops an advanced level of knowledge about Agile and can apply the project management methodology to any software project. Differentiate between the project management principles between traditional and Agile project environments, and apply the same to different work scenarios. Promote a trustful collaboration between the business owners and the Agile development teams, while providing the management day-to-day visibility into the progress of the project. Experienced IT professionals can also combine the learnings of traditional project management methods and Agile methods, thus providing them more control over a fast-evolving business environment. Improve the success rate and time-to-market duration of software releases. Agile project management certifications, such as the Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) course from the Project Management Institute (PMI) require students who have real-world experience of being part of an Agile project team and provides the students working knowledge of multiple Agile methodologies including Scrum, Kanban, Lean, and others. Additionally, certified ACP holders must earn 30 professional development units every 3 years to maintain their status. About Scrum-based certification While project management-based certification provides a single certification credential, Scrum-based certification is divided into multiple certification courses based on the role being played by the individual in the Agile project. Scrum-based certification offers courses for the following roles: Certified ScrumMaster Certified Scrum Product Owner Certified Scrum Developer Certified Scrum Professional Scrum-based certification program, such as the Scrum Alliance, is designed for software professionals, who can support the adoption of Scrum framework and its benefits in software development. Scrum-based certification is important for individuals from the software industry, who want to grow in an iterative software development environment. Certified knowledge of the Agile methodology can boost their career prospects. Which certification program is better? Gaining certification accreditation for both project management and Scrum can be beneficial for software experts, who want to manage projects for different types of software companies and can benefit from the different project management frameworks. Knowledge of multiple PM frameworks like Scrum, Lean, and XP can only be gained by pursuing both categories of courses. Besides this, let us look at a comparison of these Agile certification courses in the following parameters: Industry orientation A PM-certified individual is oriented towards being both industry agnostic and product agnostic, meaning their specialization is not restricted to any particular industry, or products that can functions on multiple platforms (example, mobile phone and desktop). The Scrum-certified individual, who typically was focussed on software development, is now product agnostic. Job preference The PM-certified individuals are looking at a career as a project manager, as many software industry recruiters demand Agile certification in project manager openings. A Scrum-certified individual is seeking growth and opportunities in the field of software development or to be a Scrum expert in any Agile software project environment. Recertification requirements Individuals certified in Agile PM programs, require to take a recertification (or continued education) on a 3-year cycle. Individuals certified in Scrum-based programs, require to take a recertification (or continued education) on a 2-year cycle. Eligibility Project managers or any team members, who hold any Project manager professional certificate, can benefit the most from the Agile PM certification program. Software team members, who have working knowledge of the Scrum methodology and have been part of Scrum-based projects, can benefit the most from the Scrum certification programs. Conclusion Depending upon the student’s previous experience and future growth map, either (or even both) of these Agile-based certification courses can be pursued for gaining recognition in a rapidly-evolving software development environment.
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Why An Agile Project Management Certification Is T...

Professional certification courses for Agile metho... Read More