Making the Leap From Project Management to Scrum

By Rachel Schumacher - August 16, 2018

Making the Leap From Project Management to Scrum
August 16, 2018 By Rachel Schumacher
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Making the Leap From Project Management to Scrum

Many folks working with the traditional project management framework have probably thought about a move into the Agile world.  Today I am a Scrum Master for a technology team. I made the jump and I am not looking back!


Why I Left Project Management to Pursue Scrum

Although traditional project management is excellent for projects with little need for progressive elaboration, it is rare to have all factors to complete a fully involved WBS. It is a struggling framework and a heavy percentage of traditional project managers are deliberating a move to Agile methodologies. When you have a project with unknowns, which is invariable almost all projects, the adaptability that Scrum offers just makes sense.  Naturally, I began my transformation into Scrum with some hesitancy, not understanding that many of the controls that I was used to managing are actually inherent inside the Scrum framework.

Project Manager to Scrum Master


Agile is Just Better

When I first started to research Agile and Scrum, it was a fairly foreign concept to me and I did not fully comprehend it out of the gate. Concepts like the team determining their own work, a flexible scope, and planning incrementally were foreign to me.  Initially, my idea was to make my overall project management style more "Agile".  The more I learned about Agile and Scrum the more I realized you cannot easily gel them with waterfall project management. This is due to the frameworks inherently having conflicting ideologies. In project management the project is split into five phases that are applied throughout the whole project: Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing. In Scrum, these phases are divvied into fixed time boxes or sprints and are repeated throughout the project. Each sprint contains those five phases which allows for the project to be adaptable and produce a complete and releasable increment at the end of each sprint. 


Waterfall  and Agile Don't Jive

Project managers are always pushing towards the scope that was initially set. This is because in waterfall, the scope and schedule hale from executives determined in the planning phase and trickle down to the team.  Agile and Scrum are different in that the scope is always changing, it is a living thing which is not just acceptable, but great! It means that the end product will have a higher likelihood of matching with the users needs.  With Agile, the scope changes according to any new discoveries, transforming the project from the original conception (in which there are likely a lot of unknowns) to the product that connects the idea with the consumers.


Learning Agile and Scrum

Lean Beer events were a significant learning opportunity for me.  They are fun events in which everyone to get together and start talking about Agile and Scrum.  But even if relaxing with collegues is not your thing, the agile community is close and very supportive. There are dozens of networking events in which anyone can gain knowledge, insights, tricks and tips, and real life application of Scrum.

Getting out and networking with Agile minded folks was essential for me to learn how Scrum applies to real projects.  To take it a step further, I researched certified classes to expand my knowledge.  The classes are interactive, fun, and bring the book knowledge into practical understanding of the core concepts. Having that foundational understanding of Agile let me enter the space with more confidence.


Did It Hurt Not Knowing Software?

I moved away from project management and into both scrum and technology - without any real knowledge in the software space. Out of the gate, I was concerned about my lack of software knowledge. How could I help them develop software when I had no idea what they were talking about?  Initially, sticking to the framework helped immensely. Although it is a benefit to understand the product, It is not required. Knowing how to improve processes, velocity and team cohesiveness are the focal points of a good Scrum Master. 

What I realized is that if you understand how Scrum works and why scrum works, then you can apply it to any industry, even one foreign like software development is to me. In some ways not knowing every detail of software development was actually an advantage. It prevented me from going down technical rabbit holes and just focus on helping the team.


Alterations of Habits

As a project manager for seven years, you have a certain way of thinking about things. When transitioning to Agile and Scrum, it is critical to embrace the agile mindset. I had to adapt my habits and take off the project manager hat to be successful in Scrum.  Once I was able to transition away from the waterfall mentality, and take the mindset of a Scrum Master, I was able to give insights to help the agile team flourish.  It is incredibly rewarding to watch your team's productivity increase along with the team morale.