Agile Software Development

Scrum Master and Product Owner as Leadership Partners

If you are the scrum master or the product owner, and the person in the opposite role is not performing up to expectations, whose fault is that? In a post at All About Agile, Martin Aziz explains that these two roles succeed or fail together. If you have conflict with your scrum master or product owner, it is your duty to smooth it out yourself.

Becoming a Dynamic Duo

Aziz recounts a time when a product owner came to him complaining that his new scrum master was doing his job improperly, and he asked Aziz if he could take a look at the agreed upon job definition for the scrum master. Around the same time, a different scrum master came complaining that a new product owner was “suffocating” the team and could probably use some additional training. In both cases, the allegedly underperforming scrum master and product owner already had experience. Aziz realized what was really going on here:

…change was occurring and each individual was relying on, and to some degree expecting, old patterns to continue to work with their new situation. Their old way of working in Scrum seemed to work very well; so it was everyone else around them that was not meeting expectations.

The core issue however was that change was not being fully confronted: the product was different, the team competencies were different, the stakeholders were different, the expectations were different and finally the team dynamic was different all the way down to the relationship between the SM and PO.

Transparency is a critical aspect of successful scrum implementation, and yet in these two cases, scrum master and product owner never had a meeting of the minds to understand each other’s position and intended goals. This is like trying to drive a car where only one person gets the gas pedal and another person gets exclusive use of the breaks—it results in a messy accident. Regardless of how it happens, Aziz says the scrum master and the product owner must communicate over all the vital aspects of the project. Questions such as “What are the product goals?”, “How can we best help the team achieve those goals?”, and “Are there any conflicts between the team and product goals?” are all fundamental questions, fundamental enough that you might forget to answer them sometimes.

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