Managing Agile Teams with Project Managers


Managing Agile Teams with Project Managers.

My thoughts regarding this article on InfoQ:

Indeed – Scrum by the book indicates there’s no project management role. The Scrum master protects the team from outside interference. Any stakeholder must speak to the product owner regarding any type of product “requirement” or “desire”.

In traditionally structured organisation, I see a lot of project overhead: programme managers, end-2-end project managers, IT delivery managers, team managers (business, business acceptance testing, IT acceptance testing, engineering …), project officers.  This is typical for a ‘command & control’ structure, with mostly symptoms such as inefficient and unclear communications, re-communications, re-work, etc.

A project manager can become a Scrum master without problem; given that person has the right mind set and attitude (as listed in the article). Cf. article

Project managers probably don’t become product owners very often, unless that person has extensive business knowledge and has the right attitude to be occupied with defining the WHAT (and not the HOW).

It’s a fact a number of items have to be taken care in order for a team to have a swift start (e.g. team composition, resource allocation, facilities, etc.). According to me, a Scrum master could handle these items, before the start of the 1st sprint (or during the 1st sprint in terms of logistics).

Hereby an interesting list of tasks for a Scrum master, cf. article

Among the tasks, the Scrum master certainly is occupied with “the bigger picture”, such as keeping in touch with stakeholders on a regular basis; help the team to report to management; being a contact person for everyone in the team and their stakeholders regarding Agile, etc. You don’t need to keep an end-2-end project manager to handle these tasks.

In the list “Role of a Project Manager”, I do not agree with:

•Manages all aspects of project –The project manager is the captain of the project and he provides end to end support from start to end > Well, if you say so. It does sound a lot like a project manager who wants to be in control and micro-manage. I don’t see the need.

•Does Goal setting – The Project Manager needs to understand outcomes and ensures that they are measurable and realistic > the team with the product owner is setting the goal on a sprint level

•Encourages ‘Team Bonding’ – As the master of the entire project, the Project manager ensures that his team is well collaborated and defines the work by understanding their capabilities > this can be a task for the Scrum master

•Is the Focal point – Finally, the project manager is the single point of contact for sharing and communicating any information related to the project and thus has an important role to play > again this can be a task for the Scrum master


According me a setup could be:

An agile team of multiple agile teams, working on the same or multiple products -If the teams are working on the same product, there is 1 common product backlog.

The backlog can be managed on a ‘programme’ level (high-level epics/features), is grouped according to feature-set and becomes more fine-grained on a ‘product’ level.

There’s a central “project support office” supporting the programme/project with all practical matters: global budgeting, resource management, facilities, etc.



  1. Willem-Jan Ageling says

    Hi Frederik. Very interesting article indeed. I agree with you that a project manager CAN be a Scrum Master. It requires an attitude change to transform from traditional Waterfall to Agile.

    However, there are a lot of flavors in-between. I for one have always disliked the fact that a project manager should be on top of everything. I am all for sharing a common goal, delegating and a feeling of ownership for all project members. I think we agree upon that, looking at your article.

    Also, reading your article I think it is very important to avoid the pitfall of changing to Agile only by name (and leave the processes as they were). Your setup as you describe it requires a LOT from all stakeholders. All of them should know and advocate Agile. A “project support office” as you call it sounds to me like a no-no, being too much the old Waterfall way.

    • frederik says

      Hi Willem-Jan, thanks for the feedback.

      When transforming from a traditional ‘industrial’ ‘command & control’ project structure to a flat agile team of teams structure, there will be many X project managers without a job 🙂

      If a Scrum master can handle all the practical tasks (resource mgt, facilities, etc.) for his team: very well. In a large organization you need to interface with a lot of different departments to get simple things done. A support office could serve the teams (room booking, facilities, interfacing with human resources, etc). This is pure logistics support.

      In large organizations where there’s a need to ‘scale’ Scrum (if appropriate) or (simply said) when multiple teams are working on multiple products, there’s a need for a ‘portfolio or program’ level, that takes care of alignment of the different product backlogs (for each product a product backlog exists with one or multiple Scrum teams). These product backlogs should be ordered on an additional program or portfolio factor. A project/portfolio management support office could/should assist in this task.

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