Making the Transition from Project Manager to Scrum Master

Photo by m kasahara

Photo by m kasahara

Many of the Scrum Masters I work with come from a project management background, and making the transition to being a servant leader does not come easily.  I’ve noticed that especially in times of stress, a new Scrum Master might revert back to acting like a Project Manager.  Or other folks in the organization continue to ask the same questions even though the person’s role has changed from Project Manager to Scrum Master, and it is confusing to the person in transition—who does the organization want you to be??

The trick is to create what you need to learn your new role.  Stepping back from the project details can provide space to practice being a neutral facilitator.  Remind people that your new role is different—you can be a messenger for the team but do not make decisions or commitments on behalf of the team.  Admit when you overstep into project management.  Recognize what is triggering you to move into command and control behaviors and (if appropriate) discuss it with your team—what are you seeing or hearing that causes concern?  Perhaps your intuition is picking up on something the team needs to discuss and take action on.  Let go of having the answers and controlling the outcomes.

When you’re more settled into the Scrum Master mindset, you might realize that it’s not so much what you say as the way that you say it that conveys a command and control mindset versus a servant leader mindset.  Practice standing in a place of empathy and team building.  Radiate information to stakeholders and provide insulation to the team so they can focus on work.  Be curious.  Introspect.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.