Overruling the Product Owner? — Making Your Scrum Work #21

TL; DR: Overruling the Product Owner

Join me and delve into the effects of overruling the Product Owner in less than 140 seconds.

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The Scrum Guide on the Product Owner

The Product Owner is accountable for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team. How this is done may vary widely across organizations, Scrum Teams, and individuals. […] For Product Owners to succeed, the entire organization must respect their decisions. […] The Product Owner is one person, not a committee. The Product Owner may represent the needs of many stakeholders in the Product Backlog. Those wanting to change the Product Backlog can do so by trying to convince the Product Owner.

Source: The Scrum Guide on the Product Owner.

The key to understanding today’s overruling the Product Owner anti-pattern is the last sentence: “Those wanting to change the Product Backlog can do so by trying to convince the Product Owner.” It is the prerogative of the Product Owner to define the composition and the ordering of the Product Backlog. No one has the right to interfere with that competence.

Stakeholders may lobby for a change of the Product Backlog, pitching their needs in a general competition for the capacity of the Scrum team. However, pulling rank or — here — pointing at bringing the budget derails the whole Scrum process and is hence counter-productive.

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Overruling the Product Owner

  • Pitch an idea to the management,
  • Get a budget,
  • Treat the product people as an internal agency to deliver what you want — it is your budget, isn’t it?

The Consequences: Think “Agile PMO,” metered funding, contract negotiations, and “servant-leadership” by status reports. (Concerning the Manifesto of Agile Software Development, we are back to square one.) Typically, this results in misalignment of efforts at an organizational level and stimulates local optimization initiatives within functional silos.

The Solution: Break up functional silos, consider practices like Beyond Budgeting, create empowered product teams tasked with autonomously solving customer problems, and link bonuses strictly to the organization’s overall progress during the agile transformation. Embracing business agility as an organization does not work while trying to preserve organizational structures from the 1920s.

Overruling the Product Owner — Conclusion

Have you been overruled as a Product Owner? How did you deal with that? Please share your learnings with us in the comments.

📖 Overruling the Product Owner — Related Posts

Three Essential Agile Failure Patterns in 7:31 Minutes — Making Your Scrum Work #12

Product Owner Anti-Patterns — 31 Ways to Improve as a PO

The Meta-Retrospective — How To Get Customers and Stakeholders Onboard

Three Wide-Spread Product Owner Failures in 6:09 Minutes — Making Your Scrum Work #5

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Overruling the Product Owner? — Making Your Scrum Work #21 was first published on Age-of-Product.com.



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Stefan Wolpers

I have worked for 17-plus years as a Scrum Master, Product Owner, and agile coach. Professional Scrum Trainer (PST) with Scrum.org.