Could the Scrum Master and Product Owner be the same person?

Last post 08:04 pm December 30, 2019
by Daniel Wilhite
20 replies
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10:24 am July 1, 2015

 Sometimes

 Yes

 No

Question from EuropeonScrum Open Accessment

Regards,
AJ

05:06 pm July 1, 2015

Hi AJ,

The answer to this is rather clear in the Scrum Guide, as authored by Schwaber and Sutherland.

Were you looking for an answer, or trying to promote another entity offering Scrum training?

05:58 pm July 1, 2015

Looks like a promo to me. Why don't you post the question on their web site?

01:12 am July 2, 2015

Thanks Nitin. These roles have distinct ownership. I appreciate your feedback and pointing me back to the Scum Guide.

02:01 am November 17, 2015

These two roles should always be different person

04:58 am November 18, 2015

The ideal situation states that for every role, there is a dedicated person, which means that the Product Owner and Scrum Master are two separate individuals. Having one person for both roles creates a conflict of interests.
This is what I would say,

On Scrum Alliance, there is an interesting article though, regarding this very question as well: https://www.scrumalliance.org/community/articles/2008/september/scrum-r…

Note: To make it more interesting: The Product Owner and Scrum Master can both be productive in the exetution of work of the Sprint Backlog, which can make them a part of the Development Team.

03:03 pm November 20, 2015

I've never been in this situation, but where I've seen it with colleagues, it indicated they were working on marginal projects.

In discussing Development Team size, the guide says you don't count the Scrum Master and Product Owner unless they are executing work in the increment...although it never actually says the Scrum Master and Product Owner can be members of the Development Team. That reminds me not to "read" restrictions that don't exist in the guide.

Even if allowed, it's not a good idea. The Product Owner is likely to be meeting with stakeholders and absent for blocks of time -- which means the Scrum Master would also be absent. No one actively clearing impediments, no one available to clarify backlog items...I would expect the team to get bogged down.

12:41 pm November 22, 2015

No, it should be 2 different individuals.

04:20 pm November 23, 2015

I really see the Scrum Roles in a hierarchy of service:

Product Owner serves the stakeholders
Development Team serves the Product Owner and the stakeholders
Scrum Master serves the Development Team, the Product Owner and the stakeholders

This would seem to naturally indicate 2 separate individuals for Scrum Master and Product Owner. They each have a different focus and scope. I think the Product Owner has a more external focus for the work that is being requested and the Scrum Master a more internal focus on facilitating work getting completed.

Through experience I have noted that the work of the Product Owner is very focused on PBIs, creating, prioritizing, and refining. A Scrum Master works more on educating, coaching, mentoring, and facilitating. It's just different work, with different skills that may tend to indicate different types of people.

08:20 am November 24, 2015

The Scrum Guide does not expressly rule out the possibility of a Scrum Master and Product Owner being the same person on a Scrum Team. However, it is clear that there may be significant conflicts of interest should these different responsibilities be combined in one individual. An implementation of Scrum which attempts to do so is likely to prove suboptimal.

The guide *does* allow for the following combination: either the Scrum Master and/or the Product Owner may also be members of the Development Team.

12:36 pm November 24, 2015

Many have clarified the about the potential conflict and tension between the two roles by same person.

The issue is not about who will play what role. By doing any of that, are we going to have Scrum or not - is the question

There is a different perspective. Think about the fundamentals of Scrum. It is risk reduction framework for building complex products. Scrum team is not just self sufficient, it is also balanced with respect to responsibilities. The risk and subjectivity associated with traditional one man centric "Driving the Project" are mitigated by distributing the responsibilities between three roles, Now, what happens if you bring Scrum Master and Product Owner under single hat? You can sense the concentration of responsibilities. Is it Scrum?

Now, add one more to the mix. everyoine agrees that SM and PO can also be a dev member.

. What about allowing some one who is SM+PO also be a dev member?
Again, don't reduce it to the question of rules. You can sense a typical project leader / manager manifestation there. It increases risk and reduce self-org. Will it be Scrum?

01:53 pm September 4, 2016

It is 200% allowed both the SM and PO to be the same person.And if you can find a person who can do that then the resultant is also 200% scrum. It is a different question whether you can find a person who can successfully wear different hats at nearly the same time or not at certain critical situations.

For that matter even SM being the development team member is also a similar question where as you rarely find a person who can selectively maintain the content neutrality needed for a scrum master (which scrum.org does not care about, anyways).

04:32 pm September 6, 2016

@ Shabid

No.

It is completely unrealistic to expect anyone to be able to effectively perform both roles. It is not "200% allowed". There is no such thing as "200% Scrum".

Statements like these promoting a watered-down version of Scrum supported by make-believe metrics are 100% misleading.

If you are speaking in jest, then your comments make some sense. If not, then you are simply mistaken.

04:48 pm September 6, 2016

Agree @Timothy, in fact I understood @Shabid was being ironic with this 200% superman!

01:47 pm September 7, 2016

@Timothy.

Nope.

You did not get the essence of my message.

I am rewording it in "simpler terms" below:

It is possible only theoretically since you can not find those so called supermen. Additionally even a developer being SM also is practically not an easy job obviously for similar reasons.

02:06 pm September 7, 2016

So,true. We are facing this. Very few coaches understand this.
Hope Ken will take a note earlier than 2019.

03:12 pm September 7, 2016

@ Shabid

Understood, thank you for the clarification.

Perhaps in the future, you may want to think twice before resurrecting year-old threads to post tongue-in-cheek comments that may be misinterpreted by some?

That way, you would also free yourself from taking offense at misinterpretations of such posts, replying in a somewhat condescending manner to such reactions, and having to reword such posts for clarification.

10:16 pm March 28, 2017

In some flash cards which I use for learning scrum it stated that Scum Master and Product Owner can't be same person as their interests are oposit and it could make conflicts.

I just took mock PSM I exam and this question appeared. Correct answer was that same person can be PO and SM.  

Now I believe that it is correct answer as Scrum Guide does not forbid it, even it is not recommended.

On other hand, imagine small project which just need 2 software developers  and tester. To make it even more easier, let's say that it is start up and the company is very small. Tester won't be 100% occupied and won't be very useful in development. So we have cross functional team with 2 full time developers and one part time. The part time developer then could be also PO and SM. yes, he need to make good  balancing of roles and so on..... but it  could be done

03:26 pm December 30, 2019

Can we please remove this ambiguity from the Guide. The Internet Q&A is treating this question very subjectively causing students to be confused and lose 1 point :D

03:31 pm December 30, 2019

Nothing says they cannot be the same person in the Scrum Guide or anything on Scrum.org Website or anything that we teach.  Should they be is a very different question and there is a lot of information on why it isn't a great idea, but that doesn't mean they cannot be.  For example a very small 4 person company...

So, nothing to remove from the Scrum Guide as these are all "Roles" that people are in, not job titles and therefore you can have multiple roles.

08:04 pm December 30, 2019

The Internet Q&A is treating this question very subjectively causing students to be confused and lose 1 point 

1 point from what?  

As@Eric Naiburg and others point out the Scrum Guide is as clear as it needs to be in this.  I have never seen any ambiguity because the Scrum Guide defines ROLES not job descriptions. Further evidence of this is this passage from the Scrum Guide's section that defines the Development Team. (https://scrumguides.org/scrum-guide.html#team-dev)

  • Scrum recognizes no titles for Development Team members, regardless of the work being performed by the person;
  • Scrum recognizes no sub-teams in the Development Team, regardless of domains that need to be addressed like testing, architecture, operations, or business analysis; and,

My opinion is that the ambiguity is caused by people claiming to understand Scrum as a process and not as a framework as it is intended.  The true source of Scrum is the freely provided Scrum Guide found at https://www.scrumguides.org . Many of the free assessments you will find are not based on that guide but on individual's understandings which do not always agree with the actual guide. Updates to the guide will not remove ambiguity.  Only study of the guide to arrive at better understanding by individuals will remove ambiguity.