Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Heisenberg Product Owner

"We're done when I say we're done" - Heisenberg

From the development's team perspective, product owner sign off is the one stage of the development process they can't control. Ideally, this should a minimal step - all the work has been done before this point. But the product owner can always say no.

As scrum masters, our job is to try to sort this out, as this is indicative of failure somewhere along the way. The product owner is a part of the team, and thus involved in the day-to-day delivery of the project. So the question is where the failure is taking place.

There are many reasons within the team this could happen, and many ways a team could deal with it. One thing to watch out for, however, is a product owner who simply cannot make up their mind.

If this is the case, it's up to the scrum master to intervene. Simply acquiescing to the product owner is not a good idea as it breaks the flow of development. It also erases the trust and enthusiasm of the development, as their work is undermined.

If new aspects of a user story are required, they are to be turned into new user stories, prioritised, and put on the backlog. This gives a path to improvement that ensures those features are added, while not holding up the flow of development. The development team then doesn't have to worry about moving targets or feature creep.

Similarly, if user stories aren't being fleshed out enough, then there's grounds for spending more time in backlog refinement. Or, perhaps, the developers can swarm with the product owner during development.

As scrum masters, it's our job to ensure the process is running smoothly, and that includes how the product owner works with the team.

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