Product Owners Getting the Attention They Deserve

The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product resulting from work of the Development Team.
— “The Scrum Guide”, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, November 2017

After a slow start, interest in the Product Owner role in Scrum is gaining momentum. It’s about time given the significant impact this role contributes to value creation! Of course Development Teams and Scrum Masters are important as well. After all, the product doesn’t get built by itself and impediments do not magically take care of themselves. But at the end of the day, without effective product ownership, Scrum Teams will rapidly crank out potentially shippable increments of stuff nobody wants — and building stuff that nobody wants is a surefire way to kill your business!

Scrum Values Take 1st Place

They're back! By popular demand, receiving 3 times more votes than it's nearest competitor, Scrum Values now take a prominent place in the latest update to The Scrum Guide™ (July 2016). Including the values in the Scrum Guide, in the words of Ken Schwaber, "puts the heart back into it."

The five Scrum values first made their appearance in the 2001 book, Agile Software Development with Scrum by Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle, but somehow missed the cut in the 2010 and 2013 versions of The Scrum Guide™. While they may have seemed to have gone missing, the Scrum values have been with us all along, niggling little reminders that practices are just practices and that if you don't actually get the Agile mindset, you don't actually get Agile.

To jog our collective memories, the five Scrum values are:

  • Commitment - "doing our best"
  • Focus - "make it happen"
  • Openness - "know what is going on"
  • Respect - "as you are... for what you bring to the table"
  • Courage - "ability to take risk"†

In the 6 July 2106 webinar announcing the update to The Scrum Guide™, Ken Schwaber stated, "Scrum values are the lifeblood of Scrum." When asked why a focus on values is the significant revision to The Scrum Guide™, both Ken and Jeff Sutherland responded that the main challenge that they've seen with organizations realizing success using Scrum is a disconnect with the underlying values. "We see places where it doesn't work well, we find these values missing, or the values not really being followed completely... If your want the benefits, you adhere to the values... you embrace the values."††

We see places where it doesn’t work well, we find these values missing, or the values not really being followed completely... If your want the benefits, you adhere to the values... you embrace the values.
— Ken Schwaber

So, these things are important. 

Ten years ago I participated in a Scrum Gathering open space session in which the Scrum Values were the main point of discussion. I and the other Certified Scrum Trainers who convened the session were concerned that the values were not being given sufficient emphasis. Each of us had seen the struggles organizations had with implementing Scrum. Many of these struggles resulted in the abandonment of Scrum. We suspected that the root cause was a fundamental misunderstanding of Scrum as a set of practices rather than a set of values underpinning a framework. We believed that without the values there is no heart, no life to the practices. Each of us vowed to make the values a key point in our trainings and coaching.

Scrum Values session at 2006 Scrum Gathering in Minneapolis. From left to right: Jim York, Geoff Watts, Bob Schatz, Tamara (Sulaiman) Runyon, Michele Sliger, Gabrielle Benefield, Chris Sterling, Bill Wake

Scrum Values session at 2006 Scrum Gathering in Minneapolis. From left to right: Jim York, Geoff Watts, Bob Schatz, Tamara (Sulaiman) Runyon, Michele Sliger, Gabrielle Benefield, Chris Sterling, Bill Wake

Living the values is not easy. But now that they part of the official definition of Scrum, they are part of the conversation. I am eager to see the difference that makes ten years from now.

4 things - ScrumMaster

In 1993, the first Scrum team introduced a new role — the ScrumMaster. This person was explicitly “not a manager — more of a servant-leader, something between a team captain and a coach.”¹ Instead of managing the team or the team’s process, the ScrumMaster:

  1. Facilitates the team’s meetings, fostering collaboration and enabling focus.
  2. Ensures that the process and its effects are visible to everyone.
  3. Helps the team figure out what is in their way of being an better, more effective team at delivering what their customers actually need.
  4. Champions improvements that the team is unable to make for themselves, influencing those with the power to enact change.

Fundamentally, the ScrumMaster role is about developing people... and the teams they form, helping both individuals and teams realize their potential. A good ScrumMaster accelerates the rate of improvement while enriching the experience for all involved.

¹Jeff Sutherland, Scrum, (New York, NY: Crown Business, 2014) p. 62

4 things - Product Owner

4 things - Product Owner

A potentially fatal flaw for Scrum Teams is to step into execution before aligning on fundamental intent. A "ready, fire, aim" strategy can work if a Scrum Team is effective in the adapt phase of the inspect and adapt cycle, but for a new team that is not yet proficient in adjusting course, getting started in the wrong direction can be an impediment that the Scrum Team is not yet able to overcome.

Aligning on fundamental intent is the job of the Product Owner in Scrum. Getting this role right is key to success. The Product Owner is responsible for 4 key things:

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