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Converting a Project Manager of a team into the Scrum Master – does it work ?

Scrum involves 3 primary roles, which are primarily the Scrum team, the Product Owner, and the ScrumMaster. For teams that have transitioned over from other models of software development such as Waterfall, there are a number of other people involved who suddenly find a different role. When you consider the case of Software Project Development, and the structure where there is a Project Manager into whom Product Leads report, and the team reports into the leads, the structure does not immediately convert into a Scrum type structure. So, a team is setup where the Scrum team members are given training about their roles and responsibilities, and are told that they are an empowered team which can make decisions. This can have an impact where some of the team members feel confused about their role, since in the organizational sense, there is still the reporting of these people to their respective leads. In turn, the leads can get confused about their role since they do not see a role for themselves in the organizational structure.
It can take a fair amount of training to handle such issues, and typical training for Scrum covers the way that Scrum is supposed to work, as well as the roles and responsibilities. The training that I have seen in most cases is not supposed to handle such issues, but there remains an urgent need to handle some of these issues. I saw this in a couple of teams where all the stakeholders got a 2 day training which was supposed to ensure that they can handle their work using a Scrum methodology. When the question came about who would be the Scrum Master, the answer was automation – after all, you have a Project Manager, so you should be able utilize the Project Manager as the Scrum Master.
What happened as a result of this was that Project Manager was still responsible for ensuring that the project was running on time, that the work requested by the client was happening as per schedule, and that the same number of resources would make this happen. Now, as part of regular work, the Project Manager and the leads would as a matter of course do a fair amount of fire-fighting, since the number of resources allocated was ‘optimized’ (the number of resources needed was around 9.5, and they were given 9 resources, with part of the annual review process for the Project Manager depending to some extent on his being able to execute the project with this optimized number of resources).
Now, what happened next ? The team took some time to settle down, and for the first Sprint, the amount of work being done by the team was lower (by around 15%) of what was expected; in a normal case, the Project Manager would have worked like hell, ensured that the leads put all the required pressure, and got the work done. However, since the Project Manager = Scrum Master had a fair amount of Scrum training, which led to the understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the Scrum Master, he felt himself constrained by having to act as a person who would listen during the daily Scrum Meeting, and then try to work through some of the issues in meetings after the Daily Scrum Meeting. As a result, the Project Manager started seeing the Daily Scrum Meeting as something which was a ritual, that quickly needed to get over, and this attitude soon percolated to others in the meeting. And the inevitable happened. When it was noticed one day that the team was actually 20% short of target, the ‘Scrum Master’ proposed that the daily Scrum Meeting be cancelled for the day and instead called all the team members for a ‘pep’ talk, exhorting them to work harder, and also asked the leads to ensure that people were committing to the tasks as per schedule.
You can guess what happened to their Scrum implementation after that. Now, if you take a hard story, which is anyhow liable to failure and huge amount of stresses, then putting Scrum is not likely to solve it. The Project Manager, even if you make him a Scrum Master, will eventually look for how to get the Project on time, unless this is a rare Project Manager who wants to get into a deeper evaluation of the problems and how to solve them so as to get the full benefits of Scrum.

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