Today, I discuss ways in which the Product Owner interacts outside the team — with what I call, “The Noise.”
First, please remember that each Scrum Team should have ONE Product Owner.
Not a committee.
This is a super important concept to understand and make sure you are actually following on your Scrum Team. It is a major point of failure when implementing Scrum if your team is being run by a committee of Product Owners. If you are in this situation, I think you know this in your heart; and, you probably feel the pain on a daily basis.
For the reminder of this discussion, lets assume that you have one Product Owner.
Ahhh. Nice (smile).
This Product Owner is actively involved on a daily basis with the team. In fact, as a team member, you feel like the Product Owner IS a part of team. This person attends the daily stand-up meetings, is actively involved in your Scrum Team Room (collocated of course), and has the answers and is empowered by his or her peers and bosses to make the call on direction. If there are any questions, this person knows how to navigate “the system” outside of the room, and is able to get the Scrum Team a definitive “yes” or “no” (or answer) in a timely fashion.
Sounds easy, right?
Here is what could be happening outside the room. And this is where the Product Owner really needs to shine for the team.
On the “outside” world (away from your Scrum Team), the Product Owner is actively defending people from coming into your Scrum Team Room and asking for new things to be added. You know… those pesky Vice Presidents who have “friends” on the team that can do “favors” for them. An effective Product Owner — in conjunction with the ScrumMaster — works to ensure this actually stops happening.
This is part of shielding the team from “The Noise” on the outside world.
In addition to being a shield for that, the Product Owner has the distinct opportunity to help all the outside stakeholders shape and form the Product Backlog (remember… there is a difference between a Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog ). At the end of every day (or minute, depending on how your organization looks and reacts), ultimately it is the Product Owner who is the single wringable neck (a term, by the way, which I hate to see used gulp). This person has the responsibility of making sure the priorities are negotiated and are correctly identifying the highest risks to the organization today.
This can be tough.
The Product Owner must negotiate with his or her peers and up the chain of command in an organization (even if it is an organization where there is only one more person with an opinion above the Product Owner).
And remember, like you (o Scrum Team Member), this person cannot just make stuff up in a vacuum. If that happens, I can pretty much guarantee career suicide for that person. I have, unfortunately, seen that happen.
If you are on a Scrum Team today and things look rosy and things are going smooth, be thankful.
If your Product Owner makes it look easy to the team, you are lucky.
If you are not in the happy happy situation as described above, maybe it is time to chat with your ScrumMaster, Product Owner, and Team (maybe a Retrospective Topic???) about what can be done. Call in someone from the outside if needed (shameless plug for me if you take it that way!).
If you are in the happy happy situation as described above, then give your Product Owner a hug (or at least a sincere “Thank You” if it is inappropriate) right this moment. Allow that person to continue shielding you from “The Noise.”
And, continue making your team even higher performing than it started today.
April 16, 2007