Team is against the proposed Product Owner

Last post 02:17 pm July 8, 2014
by Ilia Pavlichenko
4 replies
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10:25 am June 23, 2014

Sorry for my bad english. I hope you can understand me and our problem:

We currently have a well-functioning scrum team. All team members are happy. But our Product Owner will leave the project in one year. In the meantime, he/we need an additonal PO.
In SCRUM it is allowed to have two PO´s but always one at the same time. Our project management want a specific person but the hole team reject this person.

About this person:
Until six months ago, he was our scrum master. During this time, the whole team was unhappy. The scrum master was at the same time project manager and a conflict of interest was there all the time.
He has not lived the scrum process and keep himself, however, violated.
The members had to remember him always on the process but without success. He ignored scrum.
He also doesn't have the necessary soft skills. On all the time, he has played as our chef who doesn't trust us.

Currently, he is only deputy project manager. Now, he should be the new product owner with 50 %. He and the other project managers want it that way. Would he again participate in the planning meeting,
it would take 3 instead of 1 day. He discuss everything for hours.
Because he wants to understand everything that is technically and wants to control the whole team, all members will be unhappy.
As a product owner he is constantly changing his opinion in one sprint. He takes things DONE and reactivated it again in one sprint.

Can the project management really intent a product owner against the team?

02:01 pm June 23, 2014

Hi Heike,

The first asset you have is a functioning team (albeit dev team) not scrum team, this is a plus for a start.
You need to forge this into a scrum team with an effective SM and PO.
What you need is a good SM, that would get a buy in from day one from managers that if scrum is to be
adopted, it is to be supported all the way, this includes the PO and from the dev team.
Outline your concerns as a dev team on why this didn't work last time ie lack of knowledge,
non adherence to scrum, PM approach to scrum etc.

As PO he should be in the planning meeting, the product backlog and value is what the PO brings.
from that as a team you need to create the Sprint backlog and craft a goal to work on.
In the scrum team its PO, not deputy manager or project manager, so also must be able to switch hats.
If this is not possible then the potential PO should not be the PO or it wont work.
Remember the role of the PO is value optimizer in scrum, not GM, assistant manager or PM etc.

Sprint planning has a time box, and if everything is refined and has a DOD then that's covered.
If its agreed ,its agreed... unless the PO wants to abandon the sprint on a regular basis?
(highly unlikely)
A good SM should be advising on time and as a team agree in the planning, if its broken.
Question why and also the SM should be coaching on scrum as he provides services.
The SM perhaps needs to be more hands on with the services, as he/she isn't mentioned much.

Retrospectives are the place to reflect how the sprint went as a team but do document it.
If its not working then show its not working is the simple way and implement those changes that will make it
work. Scrum is simple, getting it working is not so simple.
Often the team selections are outside of your control, here you have the opportunity to at
least correct things before the team is working so it gets the best foot first.

With an agreement in place with managers, possibly training and coaching has a chance.
Your team has just as much potential as any other team out there.
Importantly you have a PO so they can shadow all the way with a working formula well in advance.

02:38 pm June 23, 2014

> We currently have a well-functioning scrum
> team. All team members are happy.

This implies that your current PO is happy and that Sprint Goals are being met. If this is the case then well done. You should now be careful to secure the professional high ground you have achieved, so there is no backsliding when your PO is replaced. At this point, I would strongly recommend establishing your team's successful narrative in the minds of all stakeholders.

In other words, you need to make it clear to all parties, including management and the replacement PO, that right now you have a working system. You need to make it clear that the new PO will need to sustain this proven approach so that the Product and its stakeholders continue to be well served. Use metrics, your delivery record, and the testimony of the current PO to evidence this.

Is there any chance of having your PO conduct a handover with the new one, so that he is phased in gradually and the risks of change can be controlled?

12:44 pm July 8, 2014

That's a great question, Heike.

First, the bad news: It;s usually the Product Owner that gets to choose the development team, not the other way around.

Now, the good news: The development team should get to choose their scrum master.

Your scrum master is responsible for ensuring that scrum is applied in accordance with the scrum guide. This includes things like keeping timeboxes, one of your listed concerns.

As another piece of good news, I usually find that ex-project managers make better product owners than scrum masters. This is often because not all ex-project managers can handle the change from managing, to coaching. So the new role for your old scrum master may work out well.

02:17 pm July 8, 2014

Good question, did you share your concerns with the management? Did you talk to the new PO (your ex SM) and share your concerns with him?

Also I give +1 to Ian's answer.

Nevetherless I agree when Derek saying that ex-project manangers often become good POs, it's no easy to stay away out of manage and control culture. And this is bad news.