Tales of the Bizarro Scrum – Product Owner Missing Sprint Planning?

  • Post author:
Tales of the Bizarro Scrum – Product Owner Missing Sprint Planning?

Product Owner: “Team, I’m going to miss Sprint Planning again. I’m swamped with my real job and can’t make it on Wednesday.”

A statement like this indicates a misunderstanding of the Product Owner role. In Scrum, the Product Owner is driving the team to successfully deliver on Sprint Goals to achieve the overall Product Goal and vision. Accountability for success of the product is on the Product Owner. Product ownership is not something we do on the side when we have extra time. An effective Product Owner needs to have bandwidth to properly succeed. They must have the time to spend with stakeholders and research the market to ensure that the Product Backlog reflects the latest conditions and needs. They must have the time to progressively refine the Product Backlog with the team. They must be available to address and answer any questions for the team throughout the Sprint.

With an absent or disengaged Product Owner, team members must wait for clarifications or make assumptions on Product Backlog Items. They also must guess on which items to work on based on what makes sense to them or what’s most exciting to work on. This leads to delays, misunderstandings and sub-optimal delivery of value. It might also lead to a lot of upfront planning where the Product Owner is engaged at kickoff and creates a detailed Product Backlog that does not get updated. This eliminates all the advantages of using Scrum and an empirical process control system and end up being more like a waterfall approach.

In Scrum, the Scrum team consists of the ScrumMaster, the Product Owner, and Developers. The Product Owner is accountable for ensuring that Developers are working on the most valuable items and the Developers are accountable for building and delivering these items as part of a quality Product Increment.