HomeRoles and ResponsibilitiesProduct Owners & Scrum Masters: How To Successfully Collaborate

Product Owners & Scrum Masters: How To Successfully Collaborate

The Product Owner and Scrum Master can ensure the success of the Development Team. The Product Owner can envision the final product and can understand the needs of those who will use the product. Scrum Masters shield the Development Team from any type of business distraction. They are responsible with supporting the Development Team, eliminating organizational impediments, and coaching the team on how to become agile.

It is essential for both to know how they can support each other. Then together support the Development Team’s effort in creating the product. The Product Owner ensures they are working on the right things and the Scrum Master ensures they have the necessary tools to do the work.

The people in these roles have to have the same goal. That is, having a successful product built around motivated individuals. Both need to understand the importance of having enthusiastic people building the product. At the same time they have to be on the same side in regards to the business needs.

How can Scrum Masters support the Product Owner

Scrum Masters can help Product Owners maintain the Product Backlog. Product Owners need to ensure that the Product Backlog is refined, having the most important items on top of the backlog. And that those items are well defined and well understood by the development team. Yet, the Scrum Master can help the Product Owner with this, by asking the Development Team to get involved in the process. 

The Scrum Masters has the right tools and knows the most fitting techniques to help the Development Team in estimating and splitting larger items into smaller tasks, but also remove dependencies. This is important information for the Product Owner to know how to plan for future sprints.

Coaching the team to collaborate productively, make realistic commitments and create qualitative products. Applying scrum is not only about following a set of rules. The Scrum Guide needs to be well understood and the Scrum Team must adhere to these values because they see the advantage in it, not because someone else tells them they should do so.

Enhancing team communication. The information has to smoothly flow both ways. From the Product Owner to the team, where the Scrum Master makes sure that that the product vision is well understood. And from the team to the Product Owner, where the Scrum Master assures that all necessary information is passed along in a comprehensible manner. They will remove noise from group gatherings and make sure that the team is focused on the correct priority at the right time.

Solving empowerment issues. Often, people from management are overstepping the Product Owner’s authority. They are asking the Scrum Master or even the Development Team to make changes, or add something new to the sprint or product backlog. In these situations, the Scrum Master must be very firm and do say no to these requests until the Product Owner makes a decision .

Coaching on best techniques to approach scrum. Part of the Scrum Master’s job is to be a coach for his Scrum Team. And as a coach, he has the responsibility to help the team members learn what is the best way to apply the scum values and agile principles. For instance, the Product Owner may have never worked in an agile project but the Scrum Master more likely had. So it’s his job to teach him what scrum is about.  

What Should Scrum Masters Expect From The Product Owner

Product owners should define a clear product vision that can be shared with the team. Development Teams need to know where does the Product Owner envisions the product. They need to know what is its purpose, and what’s the intention standing behind it. By understanding this aspect, the team will have more clarity of what we expected them to do. This will make them feel more involved, therefore, accountable for what they are implementing. 

Chaos and no clear vision can harm a team’s work. Always changing requirements, dropping projects, taking something else instead, is counterproductive. It doesn’t affect only the team morale and their performance, this can damage their trust in the people who handle the product vision.

If you are a Product Owner, just imagine the amount of effort the Scrum Master has to make to bring back that enthusiasm among team members. So do your part as Product Owners, manage stakeholders, and don’t let Scrum Masters become the team’s psychologist.  

Product Owners know what the product goal is and they have a short and mid-term plan set. Having a clear guideline, and a clear plan to follow is what sets the Development Team for success. Without knowing what should be the result the Product Owner is looking for they will never get to feel satisfied with the work they do. This leads to not knowing how to self-organize without knowing what they are aiming for. 

Product Owners are busy people but they need to find the time to be available for the Development Team. They have to be always connected with the team and work with them daily to clarify the requirements. Anything related to the product falls in the Product Owner’s job to make sure it’s transparent for everyone to have the same understanding. They need to clearly state what the product does and does not.

Manage the stakeholders. Stakeholders are a very important piece in a project because, in the end, the goal is to meet the expectations they have towards the final product. Some are more decisive in the project life cycle, some are less involved but they still play a meaningful role. 

Product Owners have a very good interaction with the business stakeholders. Also, they understand very well what the customers need, and should be empowered by the organization to make difficult decisions. 

Product Owners are responsible for the products they’re shipping so they have to make the best choices. This implies that sometimes, they need to know how to say “no”. Having a product with a couple of features that work very well is way better than doing things halfway. It’s hard to satisfy everyone’s wishes, and it’s not an easy job to say “no”.  

Final notes

To have a successful collaboration, both Product Owners and Scrum Masters need to have the right mindset. As the 4 values of scrum state, we have to value the people we work it and really want to have qualitative products. We have to learn how to best collaborate and be open to changes. 

It’s not just about following some scrum rules, it’s about understanding how we can best use them and what they really mean. And if both Product Owners and Scrum Masters get to understand this, nothing can hold them back from having a successful collaboration. 

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