|A product owner and scrum master |
should be equal professionals committed to the same goal.
The most significant frustration of my career as a scrum master and agile coach is how I have been unable to work with a real product owner. I am spending most of my time training former business analysists on how to do the job or working with someone who is doing the job in a “part-time” fashion. I even had a product owner say they were not responsible for software delivery just requirements. This kind of experience causes me to consume alcohol and have an unhealthy relationship with food.
I learned that this was not just my grievance. At the Agile Coaches Symposium in Chicago, a common point of discussion was the state of product ownership. On the last day of the conference, I hosted an open space where I asked other coaches what I could do to improve the performance of my product owners. It was a good discussion, but we centered on theory rather than practical approaches.
I hit my emotional wall when I asked product owners to prepare a list of stories for the developers, so they do not go into sprint planning unprepared; the product owners greeted me with blank stares and then complaints I was creating “busy work.” It was at that moment when I realized agile, and scrum could not change lazy or ambivalent business partners. I wanted to scream. Since that moment I reviewed my blog post about the difficulty of being a product owner. I also took time out to reread Roland Pilcher’s book on product ownership. Being a product owner is the most challenging job in Agile, but it is still a job. As a professional, you should aspire to do it well.
An agile team with a lousy product owner is like an airplane with a weak pilot. You might reach your destination, but there is no guarantee you will arrive safely and in comfort. An inferior product owner is not going to deliver business value, and they are going to miss numerous deadlines. It makes it the interest of your organization to make product owners competent and capable. If the people tasked with the responsibility are not interested then someone else needs to fulfill the role. If not, your organization deserves a spectacular crash.
Until next time.