PMI Portland Chapter

Dude Wheres My Control-PM to Scrum

Dude, Where’s My Control?! Transitioning from a Project Manager to a Scrum Master Q&A

By Emily Hannon

The webinar Dude, Where’s My Control?! Transitioning from a Project Manager to a Scrum Master was packed with information, and here the presenter covers some questions and answers that came out of that session.

1. In Scrum methodology, will the team not commit to deliver the deliverables?

The team will commit to the deliverables in the sprint, but not further. There may be high-level commitments to the epic or feature, but the team will only commit as far as the next sprint.

2. Is lack of control not related to a self-organizing team? Therefore, team training on agile principles is recommended?

The lack of control can be down to many aspects, but training your team on agile principles is a great way to ensure that everyone is aligned and focused toward the same goal. How is Scrum different from agile? Agile describes the guiding principles for building software through iterative development, and Scrum is an implementation of this.

3. How many different specific practices of agile area there?

There are quite a few different agile practices in place. They focus on areas such as requirements, design, coding, testing, risk management, process. Some of the most well-known are: domain-driven development (DDD), planning poker, user story and timeboxing.

4. Is Scrum applicable to IT projects/products only, or is it applicable in all areas—even where services (not products) are the expected outcomes of a project?

Although Scrum is often used in IT projects, it is not necessarily just for IT projects. Agile working is simply the ability to respond when the business environment is ever changing. Scrum methods can be applied to any project effort to provide improved results in turbulent or changing business environments. The Scrum Alliance has some great articles on where Scrum has been used outside of the traditional IT environment that are worth checking out.

5. How technically strong should a Scrum Master should be?

It really does depend on what you are doing. In some cases, you do not need to be so technically strong; as long as you have other core competencies, it is sufficient. I would make sure that your skills are appropriate for the task that you are working on.

6. What do you do when your team is constantly looking for your approval of their actions and solutions?

I would coach them into finding the answer. This could be through talking through the options with them and asking them: “What do you think? Which is the best one?” Therefore helping them with their confidence. It will depend on your team of course, and what works for them. I would encourage them with the confirmation of their choice and what they think is best as the SME. It really does depend on why they are asking you. Are they asking you because they lack in confidence? Or are they asking you because you’re the “manager” and in control?

7. Our team became resistant to adding story points. We have no velocity tracking without it, and I am interested in ideas on how to provide PM-style reporting without this level of detail/support. Other teams use story points and previously our projects used this as well but not anymore. What can we do?

Initially, you could look at holistic dashboards to track the status. As explained in the presentation, this could include things like stories completed, number of bugs created, quality of the code, etc. I would also try to understand why they do not want to estimate story points and coach them in the value of the planning poker game. It can also be valuable to show them the motivational value of being able to track their velocity.

8. How long would you say the whole process takes to go through all six stages?

Your guess would be as good as mine! It really does depend, I’m afraid. It’ll depend on your maturity as a Scrum Master, your organization, your team. There is no timeline. It could be one month, or it could be a year.

9. When you said your team was stuck in “storming,” can you explain what you meant by giving them the space to move out of that step?

During the storming phase, I was getting the feedback during the sprint retrospectives that the team was struggling with outside influence and not able to complete its work. I focused in the next two sprints on “shielding” it from any outside influence to enable it to live in a “team bubble.” The only contact with the “outside world” in a business environment was the PO and myself.

The value of giving the team space also enabled members to work together to resolve issues discovered during the sprint—and allowed me to coach and facilitate.

10. If a PM transitions to a SM, what role does a BO transition from?

I presume a BO is business owner. If they are doing a role similar to a product owner, then this could be a role. Or they could be a stakeholder. It would really depend on their current role and what they are doing.

11. Does Scrum ignore A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)?

Scrum doesn’t ignore PMBOK® Guide, but it has its own set of values.

12. How do you use Scrum methodologies in large construction projects?

You can use agile methodologies in construction projects and Scrum has been used in a few projects, but it’s still quite in its infancy. There is often a comparison made between IT projects and construction!

13. How do you help a team gel when different team members are shared across different projects?

I would still do the initial fundamentals (team name/team manifesto) and encourage them to build a team dynamic between each other for the time that they are on your project.

14. How do you trust the team if the team is not skilled enough?

Easy: I would train them! There are so many things that you can do to skill up your team. If you have juniors at the start of your project, they don’t need to remain juniors throughout. If you’re doing IT projects, you can do pair programming or mentoring by a more senior member of the team. This would not only help in training them, but also help with team building.

15. Do you tell your team upfront about your Scrum leadership style? Because some may think you are clueless if you bounce their questions back to them.

Yes, I do! I would also explain why I’m asking them in this way. They do understand that as a Scrum Master I am coaching them on becoming a self-organizing team.They also need to understand what the role of Scrum Master is and what you will and will not do.

16. What was your quote about: “Treat people as people, not as horses”?

The quote is: “Treat people as people and not as horses, and you can make better workforces.” This is based around the idea that the carrot-and-stick approach does not work when you are asking people to work creatively. Additionally, it also references Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for what makes people happy—and being treated well is a high priority.

17. Could you please explain the difference between budgeting in a traditional waterfall model and an agile model?

That’s a great question! The biggest difference is how budgeting is done. In a traditional waterfall environment, the budgets are done sometimes a year in advance and are (perhaps) regularly adjusted throughout the year.

Agile budgeting tends to be based on product roadmap funding, or perhaps ongoing funding from a support/maintenance perspective. Agile budgeting tends to be very rare, as there aren’t a lot of stakeholders that will give “pots of money” without any firm assurances.

I’d recommend having a look at Ken Rubin’s “Embrace Agile Budgeting, Planning, and Accounting” presentation from the London Scrum User Group 2016.

18. How do you build a team that does not want to work as a team and only works virtually?

I would look at the reasons why they do not want to work together as a team; if it’s definitely not feasible, then I would look at different team compositions. If members need to work together, I would suggest some more initial team building before you start the project (and then continue it throughout the project).

19. Is it better to separate the PM function from Scrum Master?

Yes, definitely! They are not the same role, and whilst you can use many of the skills from being a project manager, they are different roles.

20. What do you do if the team has a tendency to put more effort and spend more time on addressing new technical approaches rather than focusing on business requirements?

This is something for the product owner (PO) to address. I would ensure that the right user stories are on the backlog with sufficient priority, and then these tasks will be picked up accordingly. Of course, the “shiny” interesting user stories are a great incentive for the team to work, but normally the team will work and accept the stories as requested by the PO.

This article can be found at

About the Author

hannon emily

Emily Hannon, PMP, is a project manager in Raamsdonkveer, Netherlands.