Three keys to a successful transition from PM to Scrum Master

By Claudine Skinner View Comments

As organizations adopt Agile and Scrum, one of the first steps is to create the scrum team. For the most part, we can map the typical waterfall role to the scrum role:

  • Development team: responsible for building the product - developers, testers, designers and anyone else who has a hands-on role in developing the product.
  •  Product Owner: responsible for the overall vision of the product, creates and prioritizes the backlog (requirements), liaison between the development team and stakeholders.
  • Stakeholders: anyone who has an interest in the project which include the customer, business executives, sales personnel, marketing. 
The Scrum Master role, however, does not have a counterpart in waterfall. Organizations make the mistake of trying to turn Project Managers into Scrum Masters. These are very different roles with very different responsibilities. Although the transition may be challenging, it is not impossible. If you are thinking of making the change from Project Manager to Scrum Master, here are some critical steps to take to make your transition a success.

1. Relinquish control


As a PM, you were a planner and a taskmaster. You identified what needed to be done by when, documented it, assigned tasks to support the work, and made sure they were completed. Scrum teams are self-organizing, self-directing, and self-managing. A Scrum Master is a servant leader, guardian of the framework, facilitator, and coach who removes roadblocks for the team. He/She does not develop elaborate plans and manage them to fruition. 

2. Say goodbye to status meetings

The daily stand-up is NOT a status meeting. It is a collaborative meeting to share information, especially obstacles or impediments. It is quick, and the team runs it. No minutes are taken. No issue resolution or technical discussion occurs. Team members provide an update on what they did the day before, what they will do today, and any hurdles they are facing so the Scrum Master and other team members can assist them outside the stand-up meeting.

3. Redefine your measure of success

As a project manager, your primary means of success is straightforward - meet the deadline. In the agile world, delivering functional software is the primary measure of success. So rather than directing, supervising, mitigating risk and managing schedules to adhere to strict deadlines, you are mentoring, coaching, facilitating, inspiring, and fostering collaboration to build working software.

While the transition may be challenging initially and trust me it is, you can do it. Change your mindset to focus on serving the team, rallying the team, and building a great a product, and you will find much success in your new role.

Posted in: scrum master, agile