Serious Scrum
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Serious Scrum

Resolving the one Product Owner per product conundrum

Does a blanket rule of one Product Owner per product fit with the situational character of Product Ownership?

  • Who is accountable for the Scrum implementation?
  • Who is accountable for software quality?
  • Who is accountable for software architecture?
  • Scrum Masters are accountable for establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide (unless a single Scrum Master suffices for the number of teams).
  • The Developers are accountable for the quality and software architecture.

How far-reaching is the accountability of the Product Owner?

Picture by Berthold Werner

Does the one Product Owner per product approach scale?

  • LeSS Huge: A single Product Owner works together with Product Area Owners.
  • SAFe: Product Owner and Product Manager work together.
  • Nexus: approximately 3 — 9 teams and 81 people for each Nexus with a single Product Owner belonging to a single Nexus.
  • Scrum@Scale: Chief Product Owner works together with Product Owners.

Delivering value is a team effort that requires Product Management expertise in the teams

Empowered and self-managing teams shouldn’t be limited to delivery

  • The Product Owner is accountable for the global optimization of the value of the product.
  • The Scrum Team is accountable for local optimization of Product Value — delivering a valuable increment during the Sprint.

Solution 1: Your Product is too big and should be split into smaller Products

Solution 2: Multiple Product Owners on the same Product

Solution 3: No Product Owner but Product Management expertise part of teams

To sum it up: a single Product Owner per product only works for small products

  • When few Scrum Teams are working on the same product, the accountability and responsibilities of the Product Owner role usually overlap and belong to a single person we call the Product Owner.
  • As the number of Scrum Teams working on a product grows, the responsibility of the Product Owner shrinks until ultimately only the accountability of the role remains. We still call this person the Product Owner, even though others are handling their responsibilities now.

Allow a single product to have multiple Product Owners. However, allow only a single Product Owner to be designated as accountable. Make it clear this person is meant to resolve disagreements and make sure we go for a global optimum in the delivery of value with our product and not a local optimum.

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