It's a Tough Job... but Somebody Has to be the Product Owner

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will you do and what will you expect to see to verify that it really is "done". What does done look like? This clarity is essential to the Scrum team.

Inspect the product and provide feedback to the Scrum team

Everyone understands that the product owner should inspect the product and give feedback to the Scrum team frequently. The gap is in our understanding of the frequency. I find that many aspiring Scrum teams assume frequently to mean once per sprint - i.e. at the end of the sprint. In other words, they mistakenly assume that product inspection means demonstrate to the product owner at the end of the sprint. I find this to be a risky practice. When you inspect the product, you're likely to find shortcomings. If you wait until the end of the sprint to inspect the product, then you're likely to find shortcomings when you have no time left (in the sprint) to deal with them.

A Scrum team should be engaging the product owner daily - or at least every few days - to inspect progress to date and seek feedback on their results and assumptions. Question: When do you not want to find gaps or problems in any process? Answer: At the end. If you wait until the end of each sprint to inspect the results of the team's labor, then whatever issues are to be found will be found when there's no time (in the sprint) to deal with them. On the other hand, if the product owner inspects the product daily (or thereabouts) as I recommend, then the product owner should be able to demonstrate the product to the extended stakeholder family at the end of each sprint.

Conclusion: The Product Owner Is Crucial

When coaching teams that are new to Scrum I tend to focus on getting three things right first: A truly iterative lifecycle (i.e. sprints), good product owner behavior, and Retrospectives. Anything and everything else that is necessary will come soon enough if you can master these fundamentals. Teams who fail to select a good product owner who will dedicate ample time to their responsibilities, and commit themselves to develop the skills of product ownership are likely to fail at adopting Scrum or realize the benefits of this empirical process.

 


About the Author

Tim Snyder is a Product Development Coach and co-founder of Gemba Systems LLC. He and the coaching staff at Gemba Systems help their clients learn to minimize waste and maximize the throughput of business value. Tim and his family reside in Coppell, TX. He can be contacted at tim.snyder@gembasystems.com or via www.gembasystems.com

 

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