Grooming a product owner in a new scrum adapting organization
Is the title wrong? Is it really product owner and not a product backlog?
Nope! It’s correct. A product owner indeed!
The situation I faced in my company is that Agile is just implemented lately in some projects.
We have some certified scrum masters, but we don’t have any product owner.
My agile projects are usually business related projects.
In this case, ideally a product owner must be someone from business that knows the business process from A to Z.
Well, I do have the desired person to be groomed, but sometime reality is not as pretty as the picture.
I will describe some issues I faced when one of my key user was appointed as a product owner.
Below points are the sentence I used to get from my ‘newly groomed’ product owner
“IT’S NOT IN MY KPI”
Since the initiative of running a project as scrum happened in the middle of the year and the product owner is someone from business, they yearly target had been set up from beginning of year.
The role as product owner is not part of their Key Performance Index (KPI).
Being a product owner takes lots of time and effort.
He will need to collect the backlog, groom the backlog, prioritize the backlog, make sure all the backlog understood by the scrum team, etc.
Let’s just say it’s nearly a full time job.
Having those additional tasks in the middle of his hectic workload, not set in his KPI and the effort of learning plus adapting to the new way of doing a project make him complain. A lot. Yes, a lot 🙂
“MY LEADER WANTS THIS IN THIS SPRINT”
Once the product owner get used to the rhythm of scrum, another issue popping up.
His leader (hierarchical) somehow still can’t accept that in this project the product owner has the highest authority which even a CEO cannot override his decision.
His leader wants some things to be pushed in the current sprint. He tried to communicate this with the development team and they confirm that it can’t be done.
My newly groomed product owner somehow can’t say no to his leader and can’t fight for his decision.
“OTHER BUSINESS USERS IGNORE ME”
As a product owner, he will need to interact with business user.
He will need to dig their needs and understood those to be put in the backlog and prioritize it.
Later during the testing phase, he will need to follow up with the users for the result.
Often in this case, users ignore him.
Scrum Master, Play Your Role!
Refer to the “Scrum Master Service to the Product Owner” and “Scrum Master Service to the Organization” section
From the issues I described earlier, most the problem my product owner face is related with lack of scrum understanding from the Organization itself.
To give you better understanding, I will use an analogy. A simple one taken from our daily life.
The Analogy – A Sport Lover Story
See, I’m a sport lover, but to become a sport lover took me some process.
When I first did a sport, be it weight training or running, I experienced muscle sore. My feet hurt for days when I started my first half marathon, I can’t even brush my back when I did shoulder, bicep and tricep training.
Did I stop? No. Why? Because I felt the benefit.
My body fat reduced, I got better shape, my old clothes fitted me well.
That’s what you need to do with your stakeholders. You need to let them feel the benefit of practicing scrum in the project.
The Real World – How Is It Related?
Some of the scrum master roles in the organization are
– Leading and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption
– Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact Scrum and empirical product development;
Help your product owner to arrange the backlog in such order that the stakeholders can see a prompt result in the early sprints.
Let the stakeholders feel that by doing scrum they will get results faster and according to what they need.
Let the stakeholders know that the product owner knows what he’s doing.
Let them know that they can discuss for changes if required to the product owner and those changes will be prioritized well by the product owner.
After they passed that phase, they will ask for more. Just like your body will ask for more workout after it felt the benefit.
Let them feel that their request can only be done by using this method and they will wait for more sprints to come. Just like your body will ask for more workout if you take too much rest days.
By communicate this well, the product owner’s leader will see that this exercise takes a lot of product owner’s time but also produce a useful result. I bet his leader will consider this as the product owner’s KPI.
Based on my experience, these kind of noises will go away after one or two sprints. After that things will be easier.
Is That All? Really?
Is this enough to be called ‘grooming your product owner’? No. Those will just removing some noises so your product owner can work more effective.
The next thing you need to do is you need to teach your product owner about managing the product backlog. Help him to find a technique on how to manage the backlog effectively. Help him to understand what needs to be done first and spread those into sprints. Help him to understand how scrum works in delivering an increment.
Grooming your product owner is not all about techniques and methods, it takes a lot of human relation and communication.
Lots of books can teach you how to do scrum, but communication is the key, especially in an organization that still adapting with scrum.
You are the one who know your stakeholders. Find the best way you can implement to communicate with them.
My way of communicating might be different with yours, but bottom line is, make them feel the benefit of scrum, make your product owner’s job easier, then your scrum will be as pretty as a rainbow 🙂