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Product Owner role in Scrum and real problem situations

The article describes real situations related to the Product Owner role in Scrum and provides interesting and potential opportunities for reaction on the part of Product Owner and Scrum Master roles so as to ensure optimal work and professional problem-solving.

These related situations are based on the Product Owner role of BVOP.org which is part of The BVOP Agile Guide.

Product Owner and the director of the company

The director of your organization wants to start developing three new products, and tells you that for the largest product in terms of volume, he wants a team of 10 people. The available specialists for all new products are a total of 15 people.

I will offer 2 options for team distribution:

Case 1. 

If it is absolutely necessary for all three projects to start at the same time:

For the two small products, the Product Owner and Scrum Master will be the same for both teams. Each team will have 3 developers because Scrum says that’s the minimum.

Thus, 8 people from the total number will be used. There are 7 specialists left for the big product, of which the developers will be 5, Product Owner and Scrum Master.

This option does not require 1 person to take two roles, which will affect the quality of work. At the same time, the requirement for a minimum number of developers and the availability of Product Owner and Scrum Master roles is met.

Case 2.

If it is possible to develop the two small products in sequence:
Then for them, we will use 1 team of 3 developers, Product Owner, and Scrum Master. 5 people from the total number will be engaged for these two projects. For the big project, there will be 10-8 developers, Product Owner, and Scrum Master. In this variant of distribution also it is not necessary for 1 person to occupy two roles.

If stakeholders remove the Product Owner role from the team

The director is of the opinion that lower priority products do not need to have a Product Owner role.

I do not agree with him. Product Owner is a role in the Scrum team with its tasks and responsibilities. He is the link between the business and the team and is responsible for creating a valuable product. Meets with stakeholders, creates the vision of the product, compiles and prioritizes the tasks in the product backlog, explains them to the Development team.

The director of the organization wants to be the general manager of the Scrum team

The director insists that because he has many years of experience in managing people, he wants to be the general manager of the largest team, set tasks on a daily basis, and request reports from each member of the team.

I will be strongly against it. There is no such role in the Scrum team, nor is there a hierarchy. If this happens, the principles and processes in the Scrum framework are violated and this will lead to a tense work environment with prerequisites for errors and obtaining a low-value product. No outsider can set tasks for the teams – they set them for themselves and for a sprint, not for a day. There is no practice in the scrum team to make reports – in Scrum there are meetings in which it is shown what has been done so far.

Appointed project managers to each Product Owner

The director tells you that for each product, the client has appointed a project manager, who in case of urgent requests, will assign to each member of the team, a priority task for the day.

It is desirable to avoid this situation. The client can appoint project managers, but they are not allowed to assign tasks to a team member. They can only communicate with the Product Owner and notify him of urgent requirements. He will decide whether to add this development requirement or not.

Team Lead in the Scrum team

One of the senior programmers of the teams told everyone that since the team is large and he has a lot of experience, he will officially accept the role of Team Lead.

He adds that he will choose technologies, offer a way of working to each member of the team and monitor the progress of the tasks.

There is no Team Lead role in Scrum, so this programmer will not take it. The whole team will decide together what technologies they will use to be the ones they have worked with, they feel confident and calm and will work efficiently and with quality. Each member of the team is capable and has the right to decide for himself how to work. Progress is monitored jointly by the entire team.

A novice developer does not want to take responsibility

A new employee in your organization, hired soon, tells you that because he is a novice specialist and is still on probation, he prefers not to interfere in team decisions and does not want to take responsibility for working on the product.

I will reassure him so that he does not worry – everyone was a beginner in a field. I will remind him that in Scrum teams, decisions are made together, discussed and everyone agrees with the decisions and therefore everyone is responsible for the result. I will encourage him to dare to express an opinion because it is not known whether it will not be the easiest solution to a problem.

Development teams want to work from home

You understand that most of your team members have already talked to your HR manager and received permission to work outside the office.

It is not a problem to work outside the office, but the efficiency of work and meetings will not be at the same level if everyone works in the office. I will emphasize that Scrum meetings and events remain and everyone must participate via video link. I will insist on the Sprint Review when we present to clients that everyone should come to the office.

A member of the Development team works outside the team

A member of the Development team introduces you with joy and delight that outside of working hours, he has written a large collection of program code that he can easily add to the product, and through it speed up many of his tasks and some of those of the rest of the team.

I will applaud him for his enthusiasm, but I will remind him that Scrum works with sprint planning and transparency – the other members of the team need to know what he is doing. I will suggest to the next Sprint planning in front of everyone from the Scrum team, to present what he has written, to discuss and if approved by all members, the Product Owner to update the Product Backlog.

The Product Owner role is pleased with the idea of ​​Scrum Master managing team’s tasks

The development team offers you the idea that you set an estimated time to complete the tasks, and that they focus on their work and devote their time to the tasks.

They shared this with the Product Owner role, and he was quite pleased.

Absolutely not. The development team is the one who determines how long they can complete a task. He makes this prediction based on his experience, knowledge, practice, skills, previous experience with similar tasks. This prediction is made on Sprint planning, so they can’t miss it and focus on work that isn’t planned yet.

Division of Scrum teams according to professional profiles

The teams of the three parallel products being developed by your organization have decided to reorganize. Their desire is to be divided into teams according to their profession and qualification. One team will be programmers, the second will be designers, and the third will be quality control. You have been nominated as an activity coordinator.
I will not agree with such a division, because it will break Cross-functionality. His idea is to have people in a team with different competencies to cover the skills needed to make the product. In addition, the division of qualifications will doom the team with a lower one to failure. It is good to have lower and higher qualified people in the team and for the former to learn from the latter.

Development team and User Stories issues

The development team shares its view that User Story contains too little information and wants more details.

We immediately arrange a meeting with the Product Owner, because he is the person who has to give explanations about the User Story and answer questions in order to be clear and understood by all developers.

Product Owner has ordered no bugs to be reported

Product Owner has asked one of the team members not to temporarily report problems and defects on the product publicly in your defect recording system, but to fix them himself.

This contradicts one of the pillars of Scrum-Transparency. Everyone on the team needs to know what the others are doing. This member should tell the Daily Stand up about the problems and find a solution while they are small and will be solved with less effort.