When it comes to managing projects, Scrum and traditional project management are the two most commonly used approaches. Although both aim to deliver projects successfully, they differ in their processes and methodologies. In this article, we will explore the differences between a Scrum master vs. project manager and provide insights into their roles, responsibilities, and skill sets.

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The difference between Scrum master and project manager

Before we dive into the differences between the two, let’s first define Scrum and project management.

Defining Scrum

Scrum is an Agile project management methodology that enables teams to deliver high-quality products and involves regular reviews and feedback sessions. It is repetitive and focuses on delivering features in short sprints. Scrum teams typically consist of a Scrum master, product owner, and development team members.

Defining project management

On the other hand, traditional project management is a methodology that is more linear in nature. It aims to plan, control, and execute a project successfully, step by step. This involves defining goals, analyzing resources, developing timelines, and monitoring progress. Project managers are responsible for overseeing the project’s delivery and ensuring it meets the objectives.

Roles and responsibilities of a Scrum master

The Scrum master is a critical role in any Agile development team. They make sure the team follows the Scrum methodology and delivers high-quality work on time and within budget. Essentially, the Scrum master is a servant leader who collaborates with the development team. They also work with the product owner and other stakeholders to ensure that everyone is aligned and working toward achieving the project’s objectives.

People creating a Kanban board with sticky notes, working on project management

Facilitate Scrum events

The Scrum master arranges and leads Scrum activities like sprint planning, daily standups, sprint reviews, and sprint retrospectives. During these events, the Scrum master ensures that the team stays focused and on track. Any issues or challenges that may be hindering progress are identified and addressed to boost the team’s overall productivity.

Sprint planning requires collaborating with the product owner and development team to create a sprint backlog that outlines the work to be completed during the sprint. Scrum masters clarify the sprint goals for the team, so that everybody knows what must be accomplished.

Daily standups involve ensuring that everyone on the team is following the Scrum framework and is aware of each teammate’s progress. Scrum masters identify any roadblocks and work with the team to remove them.

Sprint reviews require communication with the team to review all completed tasks during the sprint. The work must meet the definition of ‘Completed,’ so that the Scrum master can assist the product owner in updating the product backlog based on the team’s progress.

Lastly, sprint retrospectives involve identifying areas for improvement and assisting the team in developing a subsequent action plan. Scrum masters also ensure that the team is continuously learning and improving.

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Coach the team

The Scrum master is responsible for coaching the development team on Scrum principles and practices. The team must understand and follow the Scrum framework and continuously improve their processes and practices.

Areas for improvement are identified and addressed by the Scrum master alongside the team. They provide guidance and support to ensure that everyone is aligned and working toward achieving the project’s objectives.

Remove roadblocks

The Scrum master finds and removes obstacles that stop the team from delivering good features. They collaborate with the development team, product owner, and others to ensure the team has what it needs for success.

Teams are aided by the Scrum master to identify and address any issues or challenges that may be hindering progress. They work with the team to remove roadblocks that slow down productivity. 

Ensure transparency and collaboration

The Scrum master is responsible for fostering transparency and collaboration within the team and between the team and stakeholders. They ensure that everyone is aware of the project’s progress and that the team is working toward achieving its objectives.

They also work with the product owner to ensure that the product backlog is transparent and that everyone understands the priorities and goals of the project. 

Roles and responsibilities of a project manager

The project manager, in contrast to the Scrum master, oversees the entire project life cycle and works closely with stakeholders. Their key responsibilities include:

Define project scope and objectives

Defining the project scope means identifying the boundaries of the project and determining what is included and excluded. This step is important to make sure the project stays on track and the team members know what they have to do.

Outlining the objectives requires identifying the specific outcomes that the project is expected to achieve. This ensures the project matches the organization’s goals and that everyone is working toward the same outcome.

Identifying the resources required to deliver the project involves determining what people, equipment, and materials are needed. This makes sure the project has enough resources and avoids delays or bottlenecks caused by a lack of resources.

Develop a project plan

Developing a comprehensive project plan involves breaking down the project into smaller, more manageable tasks. This allows the team to keep track of tasks and deadlines. Creating timelines ensures that the project is completed on time and maintains a sense of organization.

Identify and manage risks and issues

This means anticipating potential problems that may arise during the project and developing strategies to address them. Doing this makes sure the project isn’t affected by surprises and the team is ready to deal with any problems.

The project manager must also work with stakeholders to address these and ensure that the project remains on track. This means tracking the team’s progress against the project plan and crafting solutions. This could include adjusting the project plan or allocating additional resources to address the issue.

Ensure quality

Project managers must confirm that their team’s work meets project requirements and the tasks’ criteria. Additionally, they need to make sure that it follows relevant standards or regulations. This may involve developing quality standards and processes, conducting quality reviews, and providing feedback to the team.

Comparing the skill sets of Scrum masters and project managers

Although both roles focus on delivering projects, they require different skill sets. Some of the key differences include:

Leadership styles

Scrum masters typically follow a servant-leadership style, where they lead by example, empower the team, and prioritize the team’s needs. They believe in serving the team members rather than managing them. They act as a coach, mentor, and facilitator, allowing the team to self-organize and make its own decisions. Scrum masters also encourage collaboration, continuous improvement, and innovation.

Project managers lead and make decisions for the team, using an authoritative leadership style. They are responsible for ensuring that the project is completed within the desired budget, scope, and timeline. Project managers have the power to give tasks, distribute resources, and make important choices. They also check task progress and update stakeholders.

Communication skills

Scrum masters need good communication skills to help teams work together and be open. They talk to team members, stakeholders, and customers every day. They also need to be good listeners, effectively understanding the needs and concerns of the team and addressing them promptly.

Although project managers also need strong communication skills, they often focus more on communicating project progress to stakeholders and addressing all of their concerns. Therefore, project managers must be good negotiators, effectively resolving conflicts and reaching agreements.

Problem solving abilities

Scrum masters need to be skilled problem solvers, as they often address issues that arise during the development process. They must be able to identify the root cause of the problem, propose solutions, and implement them. They also encourage the team to come up with creative solutions and experiment with new ideas.

As for project managers, they also need to have strong problem solving skills. However, they tend to focus more on risk management and identifying risks. They must be able to anticipate potential problems and develop contingency plans. They must evaluate the risks’ effect on the project and take suitable steps to reduce them.

Adaptability and flexibility

Scrum masters need to be adaptable and flexible to pivot their approach and adapt to changes as the project progresses. They must be able to embrace change and encourage the team to do the same. They also need to be able to adjust the scope, timeline, and budget of the project to accommodate changes.

Project managers must do the same, even though they tend to develop and follow a more rigid plan. They must be able to adjust the plan as needed while ensuring that the project stays within the scope, timeline, and budget. Project managers also must balance the needs of the stakeholders with the needs of the team.


Both project managers and Scrum masters play critical roles in delivering projects successfully. However, they differ in their methodologies, responsibilities, and skill sets. 

If you’re looking to adopt an Agile methodology that focuses on iterative delivery, Scrum may be for you. But if you’re looking for a more structured approach to a project, traditional project management may be a better fit. Ultimately, it comes down to your team’s objectives, resources, and constraints.

Get acquainted with the unique roles and responsibilities of Scrum masters and project managers, and then watch your projects thrive with Wrike’s collaboration-focused platform. Begin your free trial now and amplify efficiency across your Agile-oriented organization.

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Note: This article was created with the assistance of an AI engine. It has been reviewed and revised by our team of experts to ensure accuracy and quality.