Home > Agile, Business, Leadership > Product Owner part of the team?

Product Owner part of the team?

During the previous week, there has been an emotional debate concerning if the product owner is part of the scrum team or if he’s not. These are examples of things that talk for viewing the product owner as part of the team and things that talk against that.

Why view the product owner as part of the team

  • Answering questions concerning the stories and requirements are part of the sprint and those tasks should be a part of the work.
  • If the product owner does not see himself as part of the team, he will not participate in team activities as daily scrum, etc, and will therefore not be an active part of the daily life. Which result in developers making decisions since the right person is not available to answer the questions.

Why not view the product owner as part of the team

  • To be able to make priorities, the product owner must be out with customers and users. He therefore does not have time to be availble on site and in the daily activitites
  • If the product owner is there constantly, he will micro manage the developers

I’ve not covered all the arguments in these views, but I think that this catches a bit of the problem: to be able to make the right decisions, the product owner must spend his time outside the team room but to make the decisions come true he must be on site so that the developers don’t make daily decisions which contradicts the objectives.

So, how do I think you should solve this? For myself, I solve the problem with sore arms. What? Well, we have three floors and on each floor we have these heavy doors. So, I try to move between the floors as much as I possibly can during the day. I come to the developer’s room every day, to chat, to look on progress and if it’s possible: I try to help out with what ever I can. It can be arranging a meeting with a technical guru from a supplier, it can be testing, fixing with the scrum dashboard or just hang out with the guys. I want the scrum team to view me as part of the crew. A part of the scrum team.

And it’s the same with our users and customers: I try to take part of their every day activities. Just listen in on their discussions, frustration and happiness. And to help out in their daily work when it’s possible. Help out with small tasks, find out what is possible to accomplish, formulate a change request or something like that. To make the business people understand that I’m part of their team as well.

And what a joy it is to transfer experiences between these groups! How rewarding it is for a developer to learn that Robert can work more effective now with the new release. And how rewarding it is for a user to hear that Lisa could fix that problem so easily thanks to that really good formulated change request.

So, my answer to the question is yes and no. You should as a product owner have the mind set that you’re always part of the team. But you work on all the teams.

So, what do I cut? I try to work my own product backlog and try to do what brings the most business value to the product: in this case my work. Which means that what is most often cut is those long off site meetings which are probably very nice but which in reality brings very little value to my actual work. Which is to make sure that we do the right stuff in our projects. This can also mean that I don’t participate in whole meetings. People don’t have a problems if I from the beginning say that I actually don’t have the time but I can be there for 30 minutes or an hour. OK, I probably miss out a lot of nice trips and lunches but what is that really worth. Really?

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