We do Scrum but..

“The Product Owner is not allowed to attend our Sprint Retrospective”

Are you serious? — episode 11

Development teams may have issues with the Product Owner attending the Sprint Retrospective:

  • The Development Team members don’t feel comfortable to speak freely with the Product Owner present, perhaps even because of a hierarchical position of the Product Owner.
  • The Development Team feels they can’t focus on the topics they want to tackle, because the Product Owner has a totally different position.

You might think that the best solution is to tell the Product Owner that he/she is not allowed to participate. This is the wrong way to resolve the issues:

“The Sprint Retrospective is an opportunity for the Scrum Team to inspect itself and create a plan for improvements to be enacted during the next Sprint.” — SG

The quote from the Scrum Guide is clear. The retrospective is meant for the Scrum Team as a whole: Development Team, Scrum Master and Product owner. It is THE event to tackle the issues as described above.

You may argue that this will not be beneficial when some people don’t feel comfortable with the Product Owner around. But this is pointing towards another issue: the relationship between Product Owner and the rest of the Scrum Team and how this is to be handled. Here are some quotes from the Scrum Guide that we give you a lead on this:

“When the values of commitment, courage, focus, openness and respect are embodied and lived by the Scrum Team, the Scrum pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation come to life and build trust for everyone.” — SG

Respect is a prerequisite for people to work together successfully. This should be in place. If it is not in place, then the Scrum Team should work towards getting it in place. Commitment, courage, focus and openness are also all factors that should be embodied. Also in the context of the Sprint Retrospective. And again: if these are not in place then there’s work to do for the team as a whole.

“Development Teams are structured and empowered by the organization to organize and manage their own work.” — SG

and

“They (Development Team — WJA) are self-organizing. No one (not even the Scrum Master) tells the Development Team how to turn Product Backlog into Increments of potentially releasable functionality” — SG

When this is in place, then the topic of hierarchical position becomes obsolete. It is also a prerequisite to have a effective Scrum environment.

There’s a role for the Scrum Master here:

“Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact Scrum and empirical product development” — SG

and

“Coaching the Development Team in organizational environments in which Scrum is not yet fully adopted and understood” — SG

Team development

I love Tuckman’s model of team development:

Tuckman’s model of team development

It describes that a team goes through several phases. Teams that have interpersonal issues appear to be in the ‘Storming’ phase. This is normal. You have to go through that phase to get to ‘Norming’ and to arrive in ‘Performing’. Embrace this fact and work on ways to come to agreement and consensus.

Bottom Line

The Sprint Retrospective is intended for the complete Scrum Team, including the Product Owner. If there are reasons for people to not wanting to have the Product Owner attend the Sprint Retrospective, then this is a sign that there’s a situation that you wish to resolve as soon as possible. A great place to start addressing this is the Sprint Retrospective!

Did you like the article? Then it would be awesome if you’d clap 👏🏻. I am also very keen to learn what you think about this topic.


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Thank you for taking your time to read seriously.

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