When it comes to agile approaches, particularly Scrum, the project manager’s function simply does not exist. This is because a manager’s authority in a team is founded on a set of ideals that are diametrically opposed to those advocated by agile.

In contrast to traditional waterfall approaches, roles and duties in agile teams are allocated fairly among all project members, with the primary distinguishing roles being team member, scrum master, and product owner.

On the other side, more moderate agile proponents have taken a more evolutionary approach to the project manager’s position.

They argue that in order to stay relevant in agile teams, project managers should change their current job to that of a scrum master or product owner.

The agile team structure appears to support the view that the project manager function has become obsolete, but a closer examination of the distinctions between the project manager and scrum master reveals that any apparent conflict stems from a shift in team dynamics perception.

Differences in approach

Whereas most people consider the project manager and scrum master jobs as diametrically opposed and in constant conflict, this image is based more on a polarized way of seeing things than on real, unbiased observation.

The polarized perspective on the issue tends to attribute a ‘command and control’ aspect to the project manager role and contrast it with the scrum master role’s ‘servant leader’ quality.

While in an agile context, a ‘command and control’ manner of operation is unsustainable, this isn’t a trait of project managers in general, but rather one inherent in traditional development approaches, which is where the function of project manager first emerged.

Project Manager vs Scrum Master

It isn’t impossible to integrate project managers into an agile setting.

While it’s tempting to think of a scrum master as a project manager dressed in agile garb, this simplistic view ignores crucial functional distinctions between the two jobs.

Yes, the general techniques of a scrum master and a project manager are distinct, but they may be combined to create a middle-ground strategy that benefits from the project manager’s linearity and sense of purpose, as well as the scrum master’s flexibility and versatility.

The functions performed by both roles, on the other hand, cannot be simply reconciled and made to overlap.

Executing specialized tasks

Project managers are impacted by the shift from waterfall to agile since most of their functions become redundant or spread to the entire team.

However, I believe that agile project managers do not become obsolete as a result of this transition; rather, their role in the team becomes more specialized in certain classic business management duties that do not quite fall within the scope of the scrum master.

Project managers in agile teams might be in charge of a variety of activities, including:

  • Project financials;
  • Status reporting;
  • Project governance;
  • Identification of missing roles and/or resources;
  • Business stakeholder communication;
  • Risk communication and management;
  • Project planning;
  • Change management.
In conclusion

With the rise in popularity of agile approaches, the function of agile project manager isn’t going away.

Instead, a slow but substantial withering away of functions traditionally associated with project managers is taking place.

This process will result in a leaner, more agile job that can fit into agile environments and assist in the execution of critical activities that complement those of the scrum master and are directed at a higher, team-wide and department-wide level.

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