Most adaptations of the Product Owner function invalidate the Product Owner role

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Scrum is all about creating products of the highest value in complex product environments. Here’s why:

“In today’s fast-paced, fiercely competitive world of commercial new product development, speed and flexibility are essential. Companies are increasingly realizing that the old, sequential approach to developing new products simply won’t get the job done.” — The New New Product Development Game by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka

If you are unfamiliar with this quote, then it may surprise you that it is from 1986.


In complex environments, what works for one team doesn’t work for another team. There are no easy answers.

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Some time ago, I conducted a Scrum Master training together with two colleagues. Most of the 20 participants had been working in Scrum Teams for years. It is safe to say that they knew the basics of Scrum before they joined the training.

Our training is packed with activities to let the participants discuss tough topics with each other, trying to uncover possible solutions for the problems that we put in the exercises, like:

  • What to do when only one person has the capabilities that are needed for three teams?
  • How to act when a member of the team doesn’t uphold the Scrum Values? …


“That’s why we need to use a scaling approach”

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Some time ago, I was in a debate with someone who claimed the following:

“Scrum is a framework suited for a single team. The entire Scrum Guide talks about the Scrum Team. But often you need more than one team to build a product. For this, Scrum is unsuited.”

The person with this observation suggests a scaling framework instead of Scrum. His point of view is incorrect.

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Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

I will take a deep-dive into the topic, starting with the definition of Scrum:

“A framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.” …


As your environment isn’t suited for it

I love Scrum. This framework offers a solution to deliver value in small steps. It also comes with endless possibilities. Empiricism is the beating heart of Scrum. With it, Scrum is brilliant in helping teams deliver value while tackling uncertainty.

Scrum is popular. At the same time, many teams and organisations struggle with it. They do their best to fit Scrum into their product environment, ticking all the boxes. They take Scrum seriously. They won’t let go off it even though they are not able to get the benefit out of it they expect.

The inconvenient truth is that many teams are better off without Scrum. …


A Sprint Goal isn’t optional

Many people, including well-respected Scrum experts, believe the Sprint Goal is optional in Scrum. They argue that a Scrum Team can select a set of items from the Product Backlog and create a plan to complete them without a Sprint Goal.

I disagree wholeheartedly.

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Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Without a Sprint Goal, teams can certainly deliver Product Backlog Items in Scrum. But teams can’t effectively use empiricism. With that, Scrum becomes ineffective.

This may seem like a bold statement, but please hear me out. I will start my plea with the definition of Scrum:

“Scrum (n): A framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.” …


Stop Embracing False Predictability, Embrace Empiricism Instead

Back in the old days, we used to write thick requirement documents. We would seek stakeholder approval and after that, design and coding kicked off. Months later, we would deliver our functionality. Unsurprisingly, the functionality often did not do what our users wanted. Their requirements were misinterpreted, resulting in functionality they didn’t want. The product missed the mark by a long shot.

Since then, we moved on. We adopted agile approaches like Scrum. Every Sprint we assess if what we build is in line with stakeholders expectations. Then we plan to work on the next items from the Product Backlog, ticking off the list. We still deliver our functionality from a predetermined list. …


And 5 key takeaways to get them on board

You still vividly remember how the CEO announced the news at a town hall. Your organisation would adopt Scrum. She didn’t speak hollow words. Agile Coaches came to guide the organisation towards the new way of building products. The company adopted the Scrum Values of courage, commitment, focus, openness and respect. The whole organisation — product people, teams, managers and internal stakeholders — was involved. They all received training and coaching. Everyone had the opportunity to understand their role in the new organisation.

Teams would be cross-functional and self-organising. The Product Owner would be responsible for the Product Backlog and the Development Team would be in charge of their work. …


As long as you know what you are doing

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Image by Łukasz Dyłka from Pixabay

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and Scrum are both ways to help organisations to deliver value. Both qualify as Agile approaches. People may disagree about this. Some argue SAFe isn’t ‘Agile’, others even argue both aren’t. That’s fine. I’m not going to discuss this here and now as this is not relevant for this article.

SAFe is heavily inspired by Scrum. It has Product Owners, Scrum Masters, Scrum-like events and much more. Still, SAFe doesn’t work with Scrum. Here are some key differences:

  • SAFe has more roles, events and artifacts than Scrum. …


“And it took down our organisation in the process”

As always, problems surface where you don’t expect them. Team Wonderwall has been watching the processing of transactions closely. This is where they made key changes for their biggest client. Magnacorps’s sales event makes the world go berserk. These three days, they sell a staggering amount of goods.

All financial transactions of these orders run through the systems of team Wonderwall. Everything needs to be perfect. You want to keep Magnacorps happy. The team moved heaven and earth to deliver a new feature for them on time. It seems everything is going smoothly. But they did not check the calculations.

At the end of the day, Magnacorps raises an incident, reporting a rounding error. …


“We don’t need the Scrum Master function!”

The Scrum Master is an important role in the Scrum framework. But can a team be successful without one designated person filling this role? And is such a team truly doing Scrum? Here’s a story about a team deciding to follow the path of not having a single appointed Scrum Master.

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Image by 272447 from Pixabay

The Scrum Master leaves the team

Pierre took team Lightning by surprise when he started his announcement, “Carla, our CTO, saw how great we are doing. …


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Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

Yet another time

I’m telling you — a Haiku

Doesn’t have to rhyme


With that, your task as a Scrum Master is daunting

You return from a 2-day Scrum course energized and inspired. Finally, it clicked. You think you get Scrum. You can’t wait to bring everything you have learned into practice. This is truly awesome. Still, chances are high that you are doomed to fail.

A true change agent with courage, focus and commitment may be able to prevent this from happening. But she or he will face an uphill battle.

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Image by Daniel Reche from Pixabay

1. No focus on value

Twice the work in half the time” is the title of Jeff Sutherlands’ Scrum book. Jeff is one of the two creators of Scrum. The book is awesome but the title is terrible. …


A comparison of two different beasts

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) exists to “to enable the business agility that is required for enterprises to compete and thrive in the digital age.” — scaledagileframework.com/about. Organisations adopt SAFe to align multiple teams working on the same solution or program. SAFe is one of many ways to scale.

The Agile teams in a SAFe environment can make their own choices from the many Agile practices to deliver valuable software:

“SAFe teams use Agile practices of choice based primarily on Scrum, Kanban, and Extreme Programming (XP) to improve their performance.” — SAFe 5.0/Agile Teams

Many Agile teams choose to work with Scrum. However, the above link doesn’t point to the Scrum Guide version of Scrum. It points towards a SAFe page discussing “ScrumXP”. This is a hint that ScrumXP is the preferred way of working within SAFe. …


And other adaptations of Scrum

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Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

We at Serious Scrum… are well… serious about Scrum. With Scrum, we mean the framework by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber. This framework is fully described in the Scrum Guide. Our community members are aligned on this.

However, as individuals, we sometimes do not have the same opinions about adapted versions of Scrum as part of a larger framework, like the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) or Large Scale Scrum (LeSS). …


The SAFe Product Owner doesn’t own the Product

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) exists to “to enable the business agility that is required for enterprises to compete and thrive in the digital age.” — scaledagileframework.com/about. Organisations adopt SAFe to align multiple teams working on the same product. SAFe is one of many ways to scale.

A critical role within SAFe is the Product Owner. As in Scrum, the SAFe Product Owner is there to maximise the value of the Agile Team (SAFe equivalent of a Scrum Team).

This article will compare the Product Owner roles in both frameworks identify similarities and differences, to answer the question: is a SAFe Product Owner the same as the Scrum Product Owner? …


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The ‘Are you Serious’ series tackles Scrum misconceptions. All its articles have this theme and cover a specific topic.

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Photo by Clem Onojeghuo from Pexels

One of my colleagues recently came to me with the following observation:

“Our Scrum Master has an easy job. While the Product Owner and Development Team work hard to build valuable products, a Scrum Master only coaches us in Scrum. This feels very unsatisfactory to me. As a team, we all should have this delivery responsibility.”

I acknowledged that I saw this too, but proceeded to explain that this Scrum Master needs to step up his game. …


A SAFe Scrum Master does not need to know about Scrum

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Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) exists to “to enable the business agility that is required for enterprises to compete and thrive in the digital age.” — scaledagileframework.com/about. Organisations adopt SAFe to align multiple teams working on the same product. SAFe is one of many ways to scale.

It is important to note that Agile teams in a SAFe environment can use Scrum, but can also choose to work differently:

“SAFe teams use Agile practices of choice based primarily on Scrum, Kanban, and Extreme Programming (XP) to improve their performance.” — scaledagileframework.com/agile-teams.

This is a key facet of Agile teams. They can also choose to adopt parts of Scrum and combine it with other practices. It is important to note, however, that according to the Scrum Guide, these teams do not use Scrum at…


A big thank you to you all

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Image by Philip Wels from Pixabay

On May 22nd 2018, Sjoerd Nijland and Willem-Jan Ageling joined forces and started Serious Scrum. Our ambition was and still is to create a great open place for Scrum practitioners to connect and share experiences. We bring some sense to what Scrum is (and what it isn’t). With this objective in mind, we started writing articles and soon created a Slack workspace.

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What followed was two years of relentless growth and a great helpful community of people. At the time of writing this, we receive between 100K and 200K reads per month, have almost 8500 followers on Medium, 3500 followers on LinkedIn, and 3500 members on Slack. …


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My mother-in-law

Suddenly started coughing

What an agony


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Image by Eak K. from Pixabay

Many on the streets

No longer social distance

They think it’s over


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Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Empty office space

Had to come for some supplies

Feels kind of creepy


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Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

No patience for those

Who do not social distance

I hate myself then

About

Willem-Jan Ageling

Interested in ways to work better together. I love the discussion with open-minded people.

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