BONUS: From Project Manager to Scrum Master, an interview with Tanner Wortham

Many Scrum Masters have a past in Project Management. The growing adoption of Agile has brought Agile and Scrum to the attention of many Project Management Organisations (PMOs) in larger (and in some small) organizations.

The PMO was the traditional “execution” office of organizations. Governing the starting, financing, and reporting of projects.

With a growing adoption of Scrum for software development that has changed.

In this episode, we talk with Tanner Wortham, who spend 10 years in the US Marines and ended up in a project management job. Like many of us, his company started adopting Scrum and he became the Scrum Master.

We start by discussing why the Scrum Master position might be a very good fit for project managers that want to focus on collaboration, and on the team/people aspects of our work. We also discuss if project management is a good fit for software development; what the big contrasts are between software and other areas where project management has been successfully used, and we find one area where project management has a lot to give to Scrum. This is an area that we often forget because we focus so much on the team: Stakeholder Management.

Agile is a mindset

The transition from project manager to Scrum Master is not a problem if we bring an Agile mindset to our work. If we want to help teams succeed, and are able to re-work the plan whenever necessary.

We discuss the possible negative impacts of being too rigid with the plans, and how that might hinder the adoption of Agile in the organization.

We discuss LeSS, the large-scale scrum framework, as an example of how we can apply the Agile mindset to many areas of our organizations.

The critical craft for transitioning project managers

Of course, there are some changes that we must be aware of when we transition from project manager to Scrum Master. The one that Tanner refers to here is the “art of giving critical feedback”. When we work with teams, helping them grow in a way that makes them feel appreciated and safe is key. After all, as Scrum Masters, we know that our job is to make teams successful. Critical feedback is a key part of our job.

Tanner shares with us some tips on how to provide feedback to team members and stakeholders as Scrum Masters, and how to prepare the team for the coming growth journey they are embarking on.

How to successfully transition from project manager to Scrum Master

In the end, we must be learning all the time. The profession of Scrum Master is a new one and without being able to adapt, learn and continue to grow we will not be able to successfully transition from project manager to Scrum Master.

Tanner advises that we must search for new knowledge, try out different techniques, read a lot, and don’t be afraid to fail. Just make sure you find safe-to-fail experiments and learn, continuously.

These are Tanner’s ideas about the transition from project manager to Scrum Master. How about you? Share in the comments the most important learning you acquired when doing the change from project manager to Scrum Master. Help all of us learn and adapt faster! ?  



About Tanner Wortham

Tanner is the author of a popular agile blog at He’s helped many organizations in their journey toward agility and currently works at LinkedIn. He’s been accused that his military training would mold him into a rigid, unmoving Scrum Master, but nothing could be further from the truth. What civilians call agile, the Corps calls leading Marines, and it’s through his experiences as a Marine that he derives most of his insight as a Scrum Master.

You can link with Tanner Wortham on LinkedIn and connect with Tanner Wortham on Twitter.

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