Who is the Project Manager in Scrum?


That often depends on who you ask. Some will say it is the Scrum Master. Some will insist it is the Product Owner. Some people will insist there isn’t one – technically, by name only, there isn’t one. But I am here to tell you that A) There kind of is one, B) You have to look at things a little differently than your standard project led by one person called the project manager.

*Scrum is actually intended for product development, but since the object of a project is to create a unique product it is often used in project management. It does need some additional support to do that – Scrum Project Life Cycle


The Definition of Project Manager

I could cite a dictionary definition, go to the “Project Manager’s Body of Knowledge” (PMBOK), or go to “Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2” for a definition. Instead, I am going to give you my own definition by job duties.

Project managers:

  • Works with stakeholders to figure out what is needed in the project
  • Leads and engages in planning sessions
  • Makes sure the project team understands what they are supposed to do and assigns tasks and duties
  • Makes sure everyone has what they need to complete the job, removes roadblocks
  • Reports to senior leaders on the project status
  • Keeps track of the project status
  • Responsible for gathering the team together to work out any issues, plan, update, or collaborate

Different organizations often have a different set of requirements for a Project Manager. These are, I think, the primary general duties you may often find a Project Manager doing. Specific duties seem to include a lot more paperwork and documentation.

Therefore the Project Manager in Scrum is…

pexels-photo-270233.jpegEveryone. The duties of the project manager get split up among everyone on the Scrum team. Those duties still need to be performed. Just because you get rid of the title “Project Manager” doesn’t mean you actually get rid of the duties of the Project Manager.

Project Management Duties of the Development Team

  • They are self-organizing. No one (not even the Scrum Master) tells the Development Team how to turn Product Backlog into Increments of potentially releasable functionality;

– Scrum Guide

Normally a Project Manager might assign the duties to someone to complete and may have worked with someone to lay out how they were going to do it. In Scrum, the team might decide amongst themselves who should complete the tasks and how they would go about doing it.

The Development Team also gets to decide when things are “Done” as they are the primary definers of what “Done” is supposed to look like. Of course, the Product Owner can reject an item for release if they believe it is not actually done, meaning (and here I disagree with the Scrum Guide) defining what done is should actually be the responsibility of the entire Scrum team, not just the Development Team.

But per the Scrum guide:

If “Done” for an increment is not a convention of the development organization, the Development Team of the Scrum Team must define a definition of “Done” appropriate for the product. If there are multiple Scrum Teams working on the system or product release, the Development Teams on all the Scrum Teams must mutually define the definition of “Done”. – Scrum Guide

The Development team is also involved in tracking the progress of the Sprint. As there is no Project Manager to compile up everything, on a day to day basis the Development Team should be tracking Sprint progress and ensuring that information radiators are up to date.

Project Management Duties of the Product Owner

  • Clearly expressing Product Backlog items;
  • Ordering the items in the Product Backlog to best achieve goals and missions;
  • Ensuring the Development Team understands items in the Product Backlog to the level needed.

– Scrum Guide

I personally think of the Product Owner as a mix between a Project Manager and a Business Analyst (or Product Manager). But again, you have to look at things a little differently. Scrum shifts duties around in an attempt to change how things are done. This isn’t just a light-weight framework that you slap in and go about doing the same role you always did.

You could also add to this that the Product Owner works with the stakeholders to learn what is valuable so that they can prioritize the work tasks in the product backlog. In this way, the Product Owner defines the requirements that the Development Team must adhere to for each task or user story within the Product Backlog.

Customers may gain project status updates from the Product Owner, the Product Owner being responsible for keeping track of the entire project progress. This can often be the duty of the Project Manager in a traditional project.

Project Management Duties of the Scrum Master

  • Ensuring that goals, scope, and product domain are understood by everyone on the Scrum Team as well as possible;
  • Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed.
  • Removing impediments to the Development Team’s progress;

– Scrum Guide

Because the Scrum Master works so closely with the Development Team and is responsible for getting the meetings together (and adhering to the timeboxes) a big tendency is to call the Scrum Master the Project Manager. Well, they are, partially.

More than likely, they will also be needed to assist in the Product Owner in stakeholder engagement, issuing status updates, and generally working to express the value of the project. While this is not explicitly defined in Scrum, it does often become a Scrum Master duty.

Impediments may also include conflict resolution of team members (Development and Product Owner), removal of team members if they are the impediment (Development Team members although one could argue the Product Owner as well if the Product Owner is the impediment), and instruction and coaching on the overall process. These certainly seem to be management duties, which would give the Scrum Master some of the duties that a traditional Project Manager would have.


As long as someone is performing a set of needed duties, and the process works, who cares who the Project Manager is? The focus of that question is too much on making Scrum look like what we are used to and not enough on changing our perspectives. You can’t just expect new ways of doing things to look just like the old way of doing things – unless you want nothing to change.

The Project Manager, at least in relation to the project, is the sum of the duties they perform. Who cares if the duties they perform fall to multiple people or one person? Scrum just defines those duties as the responsibility of multiple people.


Images from

The Scrum Guide:

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