Steps to Transition from a Project Manager to a Scrum Master

Editorial Team

Transition from a Project Manager to a Scrum Master

Even though it is easy for a project manager to transition into a scrum master, these two are totally different roles. Most people believe that everything remains the same once they make the career change, save for the language and tools.

Despite that, being a scrum master has its fair share of advantages, including the push by organizations to achieve Agile delivery. It is a relatively new job with high demand, and therefore, chances of not landing a job are dismal.

Another reason why people consider such a transition is to fit industrial transformations. Many companies are transforming to Agile for their projects. However, it is possible to be in a position where you are juggling both a project manager’s and scrum master’s role. Therefore, strive to learn the difference between these two and get your footing.

In this article, we look at some of the steps you can undertake to successfully transition from a project manager to an excellent scrum master. We hope you will get all the information you need in the next phase of your career life.

Transitioning from a Project Manager to a Scrum Master

Transitioning from a project manager to a scrum master should be in pursuit of your interest in joining the Agile world. You definitely know what is expected of a project manager, given that it is your current role. Your work revolves around planning, monitoring, control and the closure of a project. You also have to be accountable and use the required project management methods and tools.

However, once you decide to become a scrum master, it is time to say goodbye to most of these things. Even though your knowledge of project management may still help you in certain instances, you will need more than just that. This next part of the article aims to guide you in your transition.

Steps to Transition from a Project Manager to a Scrum Master

1.    Learn What a Scrum Master Is and What He/ She Does

You cannot enter a career whose foundation and job description you do not understand. Therefore, look for resources to learn what a scrum master is and what he/ she does. We advise that you read the Scrum Guide and talk to people who are experienced in Agile methodologies.

While looking for such people, ensure that you settle for those who are ready to talk about scrum and are generous with their time and information. From reading the scrum guide, you will discover that the description and roles of the scrum master are quite simple and clear.

However, talking to experienced reveals the underlying complexities you have to master and apply in challenging situations. You will learn that the main roles of the scrum master are to enable and help the team unlock value through the Scrum framework, achieve collective discipline and organization, and do away with any obstacles that may impair progress.

From this, you learn that scrum management goes beyond common process control. You are more of an enabler than a manager. Project management also holds you accountable for planning and reporting on progress. In contrast, as a scrum master, your accountability comes in enabling the team to come up with a plan and publish reports.

Even though you may end up dealing with progress data and publishing reports, it will be in service of the team and not meet your accountability obligations. In fact, in most cases, you will not even be involved in reporting as anyone or the whole team can collectively do that.

Therefore, you are tasked with helping the team come up with means of getting the job done, staying disciplined, and understanding the need for progress reports.

2.      Learn How to Use the Scrum Framework

This is closely related to the first point. Well, most if not all of your work as the scrum master involves using the scrum framework. Therefore, endear to learn how you can use this as a tool to inspect and meet the product demands and team capability.

You will notice that your team will prioritize opportunities and make changes in their operation as they learn new things. By learning the Scrum framework, you will help your team to identify and implement these opportunities.

Remember, there exist several ways through which your team can access methods and problems, but not through obvious best practices. Learning the scrum framework ensures that you use good practices instead of settling on them.

Also, while getting used to the scrum network, ensure that you go about the work with the right attitude. Ensure that you understand the expectations of your team and the role you play, given that every team is different.

3.      Learn Servant Leadership

Unlike project managers, scrum masters are servant leaders. You are expected to serve and lead simultaneously, which makes this role more detailed compared to project management. You are part of the team and not excluded from it.

Therefore, you have to learn how to lead with authority and expertise and know when to step aside and let others take the leadership mantle based on their experience, roles, and authority. You must be humble and willing to learn too, even as you go about your roles.

However, servant leadership does not mean that you get to do everything. It is a type of leadership that serves your team members more than the higher management. It involves helping your team in every step of the way instead of barking orders and expecting them to follow.

It is active and requires your participation. You have to show the agile team that you are with them. However, you also have to know when to let others, such as the product owner in Agile, exert their authority based on their knowledge.

Therefore, strive to gain authority around the scrum, team and system dynamics by tapping into different person’s knowledge and experience. This will only be possible if you know how things work.

4.      Know-How Things Work

You have to know more than the face value if you want to be a good scrum master. You must understand how things work and have mastery of everything related to scrum. Therefore, aim to uncover how and why scrum works, why every attribute of scrum brings value, the problems that these attributes solve and why every part of scrum work the way it does.

Also, strive to know why scrum parts work more effectively when executed well. You will be on the right track to finally transition once you answer all these questions.

5.      Learn How to Be Proactive and To Ask Outcome-Focused Questions

Similar to project managers, scrum masters must highlight issues and ask questions. In fact, the need to ask questions intensifies in Agile. However, it would be best to learn how to ask the right questions, which should be outcome-focused.

Whenever people show interest in a topic, you will be required to offer advice and suggest options. The team should collectively engage in the issue and come up with a solution. However, how will you achieve this? By asking the right questions, that will drive the conversation.

You also need to be proactive, given that you will be working directly with the team. You are expected to foresee possible mistakes and determine whether they are safe, and the team can learn something from them or whether they will lead to failure. Proactivity also means that you inform others of risks when you spot them and influence your team to explore a different path.

Also, learn to create value as you prepare for your transition. Remember, your team should value your advice as you interact with them in future projects. This means that you should work on a consistent record of helping them achieve success.

As a scrum master, do not try and force change even though you may feel the need due to the pressure from management.

6.      Learn How to Appreciate Feedback

If there is one thing that you will learn over time about scrum and agile, they are heavily invested in fast and honest feedback. The initial feedback system is normally laid out in scrum through the scrum ceremonies. However, these are normally the tip of the iceberg.

Once you transition into a scrum master, you have to constantly look for means of fine-tuning and improving your feedback systems so that you can help the business meet its outcomes. Part of your role will be to check the feedback system and ensure that they are the right ones, or together with your team, find better ones.

Learning to appreciate feedback and working on them will help you become an excellent scrum master. Once you have made the career change, you may even have to consider getting an outsider’s perspective, which may turn out to be valuable.

Also, learn to appreciate feedback on your performance. This will help you grow and become great at being a scrum master. Ensure that you have regular short-cycle feedback systems to help you gauge yourself. Also, be prepared to always check with your team whether they need help and check their efforts once they are done.

7.      Have a Mentor

One of the best ways of transitioning from a project manager to a scrum master is getting conversant with Agile to hold your hand and walk you through the processes. It would help if you got a skilled scrum master who is highly experienced in your new profession.

They should also be willing to teach you the underlying secrets and help you get better at it. You can also approach anyone who has worked with an agile team and understands agile methodology, and not necessarily a scrum master.

8.      Working with The Scrum Team

Your transition will be tested during your first time working with a scrum team. Ensure that you show some expertise in implementing the new Agile way of working, especially if your team is new to Scrum and Agile practices.

The main question to answer here is whether you need to do a big bang scrum implementation or unleash one practice at a time. What should you start with, and what should follow? The answers to these questions do not depend entirely on you.

You have to consider the circumstances of your team. Here, you will apply your experience and wisdom to develop a valuable opinion for the team since the decision on how to roll out the practices depends on the team.

Challenges That Come with The Transition

Now that we have captured all the steps that will help you transition smoothly from a project manager to a scrum master, we ought to enlighten you on some of the problems you might face. These are normally called the traps in transitioning from a project manager to a scrum master. Let’s take a look.

1.    Organizing meetings

Scrum masters rely on Agile, which calls for collaboration in projects. Unlike in project management, where you relied on an assistant, you will have to arrange for meetings with your team whenever necessary personally.

2.      Confusing Daily Scrum with Status Update

In your role as a project manager, your work was to keep track of everyone’s progress and update the project plans, whereas, in Agile, all the teams are self-directing and therefore accountable. Therefore, as a scrum master, the daily scrum only drives discussion and should not be confused with the status update.

3.      It Is Not a Defined Job

One thing that you have to know as a scrum master is that this is not a unidimensional role. Being a scrum master has several aspects. It includes everything aimed at helping a development team come with high-value products.

This can be quite challenging since in project management, the roles of a project manager are spelled out and boundaries created.


Being a scrum master entails more than what meets the eye. Therefore, first, understand what it is before making a career change. I hope that this article has furnished you with all you need for your next career.