real determining factors are temperament, skill, and interest. Different project managers are, not surprisingly, suited for different roles.
A perennial issue in project management is the balance between technical acumen and business savvy. In fact, this is an issue the Scrum roles largely solve. Some project managers are more technical and thus better at speaking the language of development and interacting with the development team. These project managers may actually do quite well as ScrumMasters provided they are not hung up on “being in charge.” Other project managers--particularly those that come from a business rather than a technical background--are often more comfortable with and skilled in the business context. This kind of project manager may enjoy and be suited to the role of Product Owner. Finally, some project managers assigned to Scrum projects end up outside the Scrum team and roles altogether. As long as they are supportive of the Scrum principles, practices and roles, this too is a workable position.
Regardless of where a given project manager goes, the essential ingredient for success is that project managers serve in the capacity in which they are most comfortable and for whose responsibilities they are most suited. It is critical that PMs are not drafted into roles which they don’t want. In fact, the PO, ScrumMaster, and Scrum Team members should all be doing Scrum voluntarily if Scrum is to help the organization succeed. It is similarly important that these new roles and responsibilities are adopted incrementally over time, preferably starting with a single pilot team doing completely uncompromised Scrum. In the end, Scrum does not prescribe where the individual currently serving as project manager should go in a Scrum project, only with whom the project management responsibilities lie and, as such, organizations should not assume that project managers always belong in a particular Scrum role.
A Final Thought
Transforming an organization with Scrum requires much more than simply adopting its language and mechanics. Following the process and filling the Scrum roles is a necessary, but insufficient condition for enacting real change. The challenge is not only finding the role that corresponds most closely with the traditional management role or determining where to put the project manager on a Scrum project. Instead, the challenge lies in embracing the underlying values that enable Scrum's benefits in a meaningful way. It's much more than changing people’s titles--it's literally learning to look at how work gets done differently. If done fully and properly, Scrum WILL radically transform the enterprise for the better.
About the Author
Jimi Fosdick is a Certified Scrum Trainer with more than 14 years of experience in product development including such diverse industries as publishing, software, advertising, and the public sector. Prior to joining Danube’s ScrumCORE™ team in November 2008, Fosdick spent four years advocating agile approaches to project management: first as a program and project manager and, later, as an independent agile and Scrum consultant. He has worked to transition such companies as CIBER, Inc., Avenue A | Razorfish, MTV Networks and Microsoft to an agile approach using Scrum. ??Fosdick is a PMI-certified PMP, a member of the Project Management Institute and received his MBA in project management from Keller Graduate School in Chicago and, as an undergraduate, studied mathematics and computer science at Loyola University Chicago. He currently lives outside Portland, Oregon with his wife, Christine, and their children, Jaz and Sophie.