PO struggling

Last post 04:13 pm August 5, 2022
by David Braun
6 replies
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11:42 am July 26, 2022

Hello community,

 

I am PO for a big platform and I am facing issues with my outsourced scrum team (Scrum Master and Developers):

  1. I have big number of stakeholders tickets (daily changes, roadmap projects)
  2. The team focuses on what they want to take in their sprint. The backlog and its issues such accumulating demand and angry stakeholders are PO problem. It makes me feel alone facing a tsunami.
  3. They are the experts and they expect from me to know all stories with all details (not human for that quantity and I cant be expert in everything). Often the team refines the story thinking about the worst case scenarios where many questions raises that I end losing the track. Team sends me back again and again to the stakeholder.
  4. The poking is high estimated (because of all what possibly could happen). Also is made based on the junior developer as reference even if an experienced member will take that story. 
  5. The velocity is going down since I started talking about it. I took a previous trimester as a reference but the team started to be more careful and went down. I am also de budget owner and I am not allowed to speak about the ROI. Who does it than?
  6. The team expects from me high expertise and detail. If I ask that someone should join me by the stakeholder in case of difficult stories I get the answer that I am consuming developer time in PO tasks with stakeholder and this will have consequences on their sprint delivery.
  7. Scrum Master full time and just facilitator for team because he is not for the content!

Scrum has many good practices but I feel there is lack in role description at the work floor. The expectations are highly concentrated in PO role but developers have the freedom to do whatever they want (planning own velocity, deciding about ready storys for the PO, watching PO facing the Backlog etc.)

Any recomendation? Thanks

12:07 am July 27, 2022

I am also de budget owner and I am not allowed to speak about the ROI. Who does it than?

Why can't you comment about ROI?

The Product Owner is accountable for value, for which ROI could be an important consideration. Ultimately, he or she determines what value actually is and whether or not it is being delivered. 

11:40 am July 27, 2022

There is a lot to unpack here. I am going to try to focus on a few that I feel are foundational elements.

There is a lot of mention of “they” and you…

“They” want to take into “their” sprint

“They” are the experts etc.

You and they is not where you want to be. What can be done to bring the team together as One Scrum Team? I would want to focus on this.

Within a Scrum Team, there are no sub-teams or hierarchies. It is a cohesive unit of professionals focused on one objective at a time, the Product Goal.

You also mentioned “I feel there is lack in role description”. This is true, Scrum doesn’t define roles at all, only accountabilities. Members of the Scrum Team will have different accountabilities, but the responsibility for the Product is a shared thing.

The Scrum Team is responsible for all product-related activities from stakeholder collaboration, verification, maintenance, operation, experimentation, research and development, and anything else that might be required.

Number 7, “Scrum Master full time and just facilitator for team” is concerning.

The Scrum Master accountability involves much more than just facilitation. For that matter, facilitation is provided on a “requested or needed” basis, meaning it can be optional. Scrum Master is also accountable for establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide, team effectiveness, coaching, leading, training, causing removal of impediments etc. What conversations have you had with your Scrum Master?

10:13 pm July 27, 2022

True Ryan I miss it and I try to be 1 team (I give them priority every time I hear they have an impediment). I preferred to share my concerns with team. But we are in situation where the team has created own space with big wall towards me with no interests in the backlog or stakeholders pressure. They repeat that Scrum says it is PO responsibility.

By planning the team selects few stories from my priorities (approx. 50% FTE time based on Points estimation) and lets me with the rest. 

The scrum Master role was until now facilitator, no proposals for the backlog, no actions to enhance the velocity etc. If I try to open an improvement subject he takes the role of advocate for dev team.

Regards

03:35 pm July 31, 2022

To give you my short and humble opinion:

Currently, there are quite some problem areas, wheras Ryan already pointed out one of the most important ones (Beeing completely seperated by the rest of the team is a very bad situation in general and maybe the route cause).

I feel, that there are misunderstandings regarding Scrum and unfortunately the Scrum Master with no clue about his role at all. Overall failing to implement Scrum.

Hence, I would recommend you in short the following:

  • Read the Scrum Guide again and think about what differs currently from your situation to understand, what should be the goal to strive for and what should be changed. Be sure, that you are on the right track, while accepting misunderstanding within your team
  • Consider untertaking with the whole team a professionally led agile team workshop to discuss the problems there in a secure and guided zone (Not led by your SM)
  • Have a serious conversation with your Scrum Master, discussing your expactations and his self-understanding. The Scrum Master is responsible for getting the team together not dividing it, moving impediments out of the way (you mentioned al lot) not causing them and overall is accountable if there is no improvement (your optinion and view as PO counts!). If this leads nowhere, seriously consider replacing the Scrum Master with someone deserving the title (Maybe look for sucessful practitioneers with relevant official certificates)
  • Seek support within your organiation

 

07:26 am August 2, 2022

Thanks Dennis,

I started this traject already. The SM left and funny enough I don't feel a GAP in the team (Now I'm gathering a list of expectations for the rol of SM). Hopefully the next one will lead us into improvement and more added value than just managing outlook agenda.

 

Best regards

12:19 pm August 5, 2022

The team expects from me high expertise and detail. If I ask that someone should join me by the stakeholder in case of difficult stories I get the answer that I am consuming developer time in PO tasks with stakeholder and this will have consequences on their sprint delivery.

I shared the same experience and it took us quite some effort to make it clear to some of the developers, that in some (if not the most) scenarios a good refinement (which in the end means "gathering the necessary information") is already half of the development work to be done. Up until then, for them, there existed "work" - which meant coding - and "meetings". Meanwhile, we found "our" mode, but it didn't come by itself...

The poking is high estimated (because of all what possibly could happen). Also is made based on the junior developer as reference even if an experienced member will take that story. 

I always recommend estimating in complexity rather than in effort. It seems, like the team estimates in effort. And as you seem to know, effort is a highly subjective measurement, depending a lot on experience and expertise in the current matter. Frankly spoken, in the current mode, you end up with team members wanting to be paid as senior level professonals while committing themselves to junior-level outputs. (That, by the way, is also a point of ROI).

Changing estimations towards complexity will foster exchange within the team, as every team member will estimate on the basis on information he / she posseses at the very moment. This works in two directions: Some may understand the subject matter better than others, some may have deeper technological knowledge with first ideas on implementation. The team will have to exchange that information and find a common commitment. 

This has to happen "fact driven". What "could happen" is not empirical. Everything that could happen will appear as an impediment and will be coped with. After some sprints, you will know your true velocity - already containing an empirically valuable expression of things that slow you down in your overall sprint...

These are all points at which a good SM might help a lot, so I wish you and your team good luck in finding the adequate person for the role.