Role of PO and self-organizing teams

Last post 02:32 am February 19, 2014
by michael
6 replies
10:35 am February 13, 2014

I'm a team member, developer, and have a question about POs role according to Scrum.
We are an experienced team and been using Scrum about 2 years.
Our PO is more or less always deciding who should do what. The distrubution of tasks/stories also often feel unfair.
Is this really the PO role? Shouldn't he/she 'only' decide/prioritize the backlog. I mean, we should be self-organizing and we commit to backlog, which should be enough for the PO.

Could you please give me some advice, some arguments, beacuse I'm planning to bring up this in next retrospective.


10:54 am February 13, 2014

Why not take along a copy the Scrum Guide, and highlight the parts you consider relevant. For example: "[Development Teams] 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".

Speaking of which, where is your Scrum Master in all of this? It is his or her responsibility to make sure the rules of Scrum are being applied.

04:57 pm February 13, 2014

Hi Jonas,

I couldn't agree with Ian more. What is your Scrum Master doing in all this? The Product Owner shouldn't be telling the Development Team how to do its work and organise itself.

The Scrum guide is quite clear on the division of responsibilities for the PO and the Development team .....

The Product Owner is the sole person responsible for managing the Product Backlog. Product Backlog management includes:
 Clearly expressing Product Backlog items;
 Ordering the items in the Product Backlog to best achieve goals and missions;
 Optimizing the value of the work the Development Team performs;
 Ensuring that the Product Backlog is visible, transparent, and clear to all, and shows what the Scrum Team will work on next; and,
 Ensuring the Development Team understands items in the Product Backlog to the level needed.

wheras the very first characteristic stated for a Development team is as follows ....

 They 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;

Good luck with your retrospective and I hope that you get this resolved satisfactorily soon.

08:26 am February 18, 2014

Sounds like the PO is running in "PM" mode and we don't have PM in SCRUM.
As Ian and Snowy rightly say, Scrum master should be master servant to the team and organization so technically the PO is an impediment in this case and needs to inspect and adapt.
The Scrum master should educate the PO on scrum framework while the dev team get on with their work without the distraction.

Remember Rome was not built in a day, some PM's just got called PO and don't understand the difference between the roles and project manage, that's not what scrums about, but the Scrum master should be doing this not the dev team.

02:32 pm February 18, 2014

Hi Jonas,

In a self-organising team, nobody tells the team what to do and how to do it, including the Product Owner. It sounds like this is an opportunity for the Scrum Master to coach the Product Owner.

02:56 pm February 18, 2014

My question is what if the developers are not eager to actively contribute to the sprint backlog? who should encourage them to actively contribute and take some tasks from the board?

02:32 am February 19, 2014

Scrum master as he or she has a duty to team, PO and the organisation to educate and promote
This should be visible sprint by sprint if its not being done from the events.

No one said scrum master was an easy role.