Do You Need a New Product Owner? 3 Simple Questions Will Help You Decide!

Eugene LaiWed, 01/08/2020 - 16:44

Who is the most important person on your Scrum team? Some may say “Scrum Master”, but I think it’s actually the “Product Owner”. This is because I feel that even if a team has a poor Scrum Master, it may be able to get by and figure things out. On the other hand, having an ineffective Product Owner will have a bigger impact on the team because the team will struggle with understanding the vision of the product and most likely the priorities as well; these issues would directly impact the team’s ability to deliver results.

So, how can you tell if your current Product Owner is not working out for your team? All you need to do is ask 3 simple questions and evaluate your own responses…Read ahead to find out more!

Question #1 – Is your Product Owner micro-managing the team?

Micro-management is the killer of innovation and creativity, and it needs to be addressed as quickly as possible. How can you tell if this is happening? If the Product Owner is defining the solution in detail such as the architecture, technology, etc., your team is likely being micro-managed.

Question #2 – Is your team consistently confused on what the Product Owner is asking for, or consistently missing their Sprint Goals/commitments?

If the team is unable to get clarity on the requirements (i.e. features, user stories, acceptance criteria, etc.), it will be very difficult for the team to meet the expectations of customers and leadership team. One symptom to watch out for is the amount of effort needed to refine or estimate the Product Backlog; a low-quality backlog that is missing critical information will often lead to extended effort for estimation.

Question #3 – Is your team reluctant to be candid and honest about issues and challenges?

If the presence of the Product Owner in key team events such as Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, or the Retrospective creates an uneasy tension amongst the team, there is likely some deeper problem here. The Product Owner may be someone in a position of power and authority, which could lead to a dynamic where the team is uncomfortable speaking up or challenging his/her opinions. This is not necessarily the fault of the Product Owner; sometimes teams just don’t get along, and alternative solutions need to be explored.

In closing, if you are encountering issues with your Product Owner, you may want to explore some coaching before looking for a replacement. The Product Owner role is a critical and challenging role that will require time for any skilled professional to learn. So, give them help and support to make adjustments!