One Less Project Manager

Apr. 11, 2021

One reason for becoming a Scrum Master was the absence of a project manager in the Scrum framework. See, I grew up in a cold waterfall world, and I worked with a lot of project managers (and occasionally, I was also in the role as a pm). Many project managers acted as scribes, protocol writers, gant-chart sketchers, and fierce budget watchers. Their entire focus was on following the BIG plan. We all know that planning is essential, but plans are often useless — so what about the project manager?

I want to emphasise that I also met some terrific project managers acting in the role of a “superhero“ or “project saviour“. They worked relentlessly — and many times without the deserved recognition from the team and manager above — as project manager, product manager, facilitator, developer, relocation organiser and nanny.

Since top management often did not value their efforts, most of these project managers burnt out well before the project ended. Probably, because the first 80 per cent of the projects were just talking about the strategy and requirements to actually start — and a lot of worrying if we will keep the deadline.

Are you still planning or already working?

Often our project manager was sitting motionless in our meeting among heated debates and clearly wasn’t following what we were talking about. In these situations, I think that secretly the entire team (and perhaps also the pm) considered the role of the pm as absolutely powerless and cringe worthy.

I am happy that Scrum does not know the role of a project manager. But what about the Scrum Master? Isn`t the prime job of a SM to remove impediments for the team? Yes, and no: The SM enables the team to settle this by themselves first. If this fails, the SM will get into action and fight for the team like a mum would fight for her children.

The Scrum Master is not a manager

The SM is not a manager but a leader who serves. Depending on the needs, a Scrum Master is a teacher, coach or adviser. Not a manager. And not a helicopter Scrum Mom or a Scrum Daddy. In Scrum, teams are encouraged to self-manage. And since we are inspecting and adapting often, we do not need an elaborate gant-never-happens-it-is-an-illusion-chart.

I am sure there are many project managers (aka superheroes) out there who might beg to differ. To be clear: Great project managers are an asset for every organisation. But maybe they should all become Scrum Masters or Product Owners to become even more valuable to the organisation.

Project managers, it is time to rise and shine!