Is the Product Owner Part of the Team?

“Is the Product Owner Part of the Team?”

When you ask this question in the companies, you discover that about 30% of teams believe that he or she is not. If you ask why not, you find out that they feel their Product Owners:

  • are far away from them (and I’m not talking about physical distance now)
  • don’t help them
  • don’t understand them
So where is the problem?

In many companies, at the beginning of their Agile transformation, they simply move the team to Scrum and the Product Managers to Product Owners.

What happens?

They don’t have the time to be Product Owners, since they are responsible for several huge products. Luckily they understand the product, but they have no time to share their understanding at any higher granularity than general ideas or epics. And that’s indeed not enough. Such teams are having a Product Owner Proxy, or Tactical Product Owner who is, in reality, acting like a real Product Owner and don’t miss their business Product Owner.

Why is that usually not good?

We are missing the “one PO voice” and we are losing the business-driven approach in favour of a  technical point of view. In such environments, we are also missing the push to “maximise work not done”, which is one of the Agile Manifesto principles. That is indeed not good for either team or product.

Then we have about 50% of companies where they believe the Product Owner is part of the team, but he is not responsible for writing User Stories.

Why not?

Usually, because he or she doesn’t understand the technical aspects. So how can he possibly do that? They usually don’t invite him or her to the retrospective either, because… well… he is a team, but the retrospective is for the development team only. So it’s kind of unclear.

The remaining 20% take their Product Owner as their member. They invite him to the retrospective, they trust each other. If that’s possible, they sit together. If not, they speak with each other often. Such a Product Owner relationship is very helpful. Not only for your team but the product as well.

Want to be a great Product Owner? Join Evelyn Tian, on the Certified Product Owner course.

This article first appeared here.

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