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The Best Product Owners Have Great Facilitation Skills

September 19, 2022

The Best Product Owners Have Great Facilitation Skills

Anyone working as a Product Owner with multiple stakeholders having diverse opinions has their hands full.  The Scrum Guide states that the Product Owner is accountable for effective Product Backlog management, including developing and communicating the Product Goal, Creating Product Backlog items, Ordering the Product Backlog, and ensuring that the Product Backlog is transparent and understood.  The organization must respect the Product Owner’s decisions, and the Product Owner is explicitly NOT a committee. 

Given that the Product Owner may represent the needs of many stakeholders, these stakeholders will lobby for their requests.  Unfortunately, some stakeholders often intimidate others as a means to get what they want.  Some will argue publicly, and some will take it offline.  Have you ever been in a Sprint Review where stakeholders have arguments about what should come next?  How was it resolved?  Did the product owner give in to the loudest or most senior person in the room?  Or did they assert that it is my decision and move on in the spirit of efficiency?  In any of these situations, the Agile Team and stakeholders were likely less than satisfied and probably not a great way to keep the team and stakeholders engaged.

Just because the organization should respect the Product Owner’s decision does not mean that coming to a common understanding with a diverse group of stakeholders is not very important.  Many organizations preach about the importance of diversity and inclusion.  However, how many enact these values at the working group level?  Building a sustainable agreement or product goal has four stages:[i] gathering diverse points of view, creating a shared framework of understanding, developing inclusive solutions, and reaching closure.  It takes more than management skills to navigate the dynamics of group decision-making.

When considering the value of attending this workshop, consider the following:

  • Do you genuinely believe that decisions made based on achieving a shared understanding lead to better outcomes?
  • Do you have a working agreement with your team and stakeholders that states explicit expectations related to respectful participation when focused on group decision-making?
  • Have you built a “safe” environment for your team to express conflicting and possibly unpopular decisions?

Scrum Masters and Product Owners will find that’s new Professional Scrum Facilitation Skills workshop provides tools and techniques they can utilize immediately.  Additionally, any stakeholder with some knowledge of Scrum will likely find this workshop valuable.  The hands-on workshop will help participants understand the challenges and learn techniques related to assisting a group in progress from diverse perspectives through the “groan zone”[ii] into an integrated understanding of the chosen path forward.

Check out our scheduled Professional Scrum Facilitation classes.


[i] Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision Making. Page XXIV

[ii] Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision Making. Page 19

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