Product Owner – a missunderstood scrum role

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From time to time I hear sentences like “This isn’t a real scrum project, you as product owner haven’t got any discussions with the scrum master.”

This sentences show that conflicts are expected between Scrum Master and Product Owner or between Product Owner and Team. Similar to often announced short role description of the scrum master “He protects the team against the product owner.” Apparently there is the expectation, that I as the product owner will generally break the rules of scrum and exceed my entitlements against the team (or the scrum master) as often as possible. This means the scrum master has to bring me back to line.

However I have a complete different view of my role. As product owner I’m an integral and important part of the development team. Although I do the greatest part of the stakeholder communication and be self responsible for my tasks, I shouldn’t sit in private, I should be in the centre of development action. I try to participate in as many daily scrums (as listener) as possible and to notice most of the teams discussions and problems. These information help me in creating, describing, prioritizing and cutting my backlog items. Furthermore I am able to bring themes and issues up betimes to the team as well as to the stakeholders. Although the entitlements in scrum are clearly separated, all other roles have influence, too. As I support the team in planning and working, they help me in extending the product backlog or communicating with the stakeholders.

I assume that every member of the scrum team intends to complete the product successfully and understand and accept the scrum approach. Therefore the three central roles in scrum will support each other as much as possible and wouldn’t put obstacles in the others paths. That doesn’t mean, that especially in stressful times one side wouldn’t break the scrum rules in the heat of the battle or that everyone would let the scrum rules slide. But to recognize and intercept this is in the responsibility of the scrum master. However for a good scrum team it should be an exception and not the rule.

Do you have other experiences with the scrum role? Do you have another view on the product owner role?


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