Who would resolve conflicts between a PO and a SM?

Last post 01:28 pm June 22, 2017
by Timothy Baffa
5 replies
08:53 pm April 11, 2017


If both the PO and SM are management positions, then if there is a conflict of interest between the two, would senior management be responsible for solving it?

I understand that the goals of the PO and the SM are different, is this the reason why it is advised that a single person should not play both the roles?


09:26 pm April 11, 2017

If external intervention is needed to resolve conflict between Scrum Team members, what would that imply for their ability to self-organize and to observe the Scrum Values?

10:10 pm April 21, 2017

Regarding your second question...  Are the Product Owner and Scrum Master roles not recommended to be performed by the same individual because they have different goals?  I would say yes.  Each role is focused on something completely different.  The Product Owner is focused on maintaining the Product Backlog and prioritizing the work based on what the end users want/need.  The Scrum Master is focused on the team and improving efficiency, quality, etc.

09:43 pm June 21, 2017


I am a new Scrum Master working with two teams who are new to Scrum and Agile. There isn't much sponsorship from the organization for Agile either.

I experienced a painful surprise today when I overheard the PO tell the Dev Team this, "if anyone asks we used the cards."

He was referring to me when he said "anyone," and the Planning meeting which I wasn't able to attend today because I had an outside appointment during that time. I suggested to the PO prior to the meeting they use the Poker cards for estimating.

Obviously they didn't, which if they didn't want to use the cards, I would have been fine with that as long as they devised another way to estimate. But the fact that he undermined me in front of the dev team like that says that he doesn't believe in the process and maybe just going along. 

If the team misrepresents what they're doing, then when we have our Retros, we will do the wrong inspection, and will do the wrong adaptation. I will fall short at being the best servant-leader to them because they will essentially lie to me about what they're doing. Now, I am always at the events, but today I wasn't, and was surprised to hear his comment over the wall.

I have had many challenges with this team for the past 4 months. I feel that I have exhausted every effort in making this work by having a one-on-one with the PO and being honest about his negativity and stonewalling me. I have had a team meeting to try and distill the issues down to the core regarding their resistance to Scrum. I offered to take away all events, but to my surprise they wanted to keep them all, except for the Retro, which I said I wanted to keep, so nothing changed. I've even had to ask management for help regarding the nature of the PO and I's relationship and the team's unwillingness to accept the change the organization mandated.

I really feel this is a dead-end, and my efforts would be deserved elsewhere. But in the meantime, how do I handle a team that is willing to lie to me about Poker cards? I think it's really silly, if they are so against them, then we can find another way. I show this team respect, I want to know how they would like things to be, but I don't get anything. It almost seems that they need command and control. Is it possible that some teams are just unable to self-organize?



12:18 am June 22, 2017

Why defer estimation to planning? That's deferring a lot of risk to the last minute. Wouldn't it be better to estimate during refinement, and increase the chances of the team being able to revise their estimates, and your own chances of being able to observe, facilitate and guide? 

Also, why suggest using cards to the PO at all? The PO does not control either planning or how estimation is done. In fact, unless also a Dev Team member, the PO is the one required attendee who wouldn't have a say in estimation at all.

01:28 pm June 22, 2017

Nadia, based on your comments, I have the following questions and observations regarding your situation:


1)  You say that you are working with two Dev Teams.   Do they both complete work for the same PO?

2)  Are there opportunities for these two Dev Teams to share information and learning regarding Scrum?   This could be quite beneficial if one Dev Team is more mature Agilely than the other.

3)  As Ian mentioned, the team should be estimating as part of refinement, and not during Sprint Planning.   With 4 months under their "Scrum" belts, the Dev Team and the PO should have a good sense of team velocity, and they should go into Sprint Planning with a reasonable idea of what can be offered and forecast for the upcoming sprint.

4)  I would hesitate to conclude that the team will misrepresent what they're doing based on the PO's actions.   The PO should not worry about how the team arrives at their estimations, and this is something you need to discuss with him.   Keep in mind, estimates are only valid when provided by those who will be doing the work.

5)  What were some of the reasons why the team wanted to keep the Scrum ceremonies?   Why did they not like the Sprint Retrospective?   Did they have any alternatives to support continuous improvement and reflection besides the retro?   What reasons did you give for the purpose of each Scrum ceremony?


Perhaps you went into this believing that being a Scrum Master was easy, and everyone just needed to follow the Scrum Guide, of which you were very knowledgeable of.   Seems you got your first taste (of probably many, unfortunately) of a less than ideal situation where the practice of Scrum is being attempted.   There is no substitute for these types of situations to help you grow as a Scrum Master.   It is quite hard work, but rewarding when you can see the positive effects of your guidance and help.


Good luck!