Part 1: What makes a great Product Owner?

In this interview, agile42 coach & trainer Daniel Lynn, looks at what makes a great Product Owner, including reminding the team that you're in this together and when we don't have all the solutions, it is ok to say "I don't know".

You can watch the full video interview below:

What makes a great Product Owner?

A great Product Owner always has the customer or end-user in mind. In fact, this is one of the most important things that a Product Owner brings to the Scrum Team. If you look at the Scrum Guide, most of the responsibilities of the Product Owner can actually be delegated out. There is no reason that the development team can’t add items to the backlog and help identify what priorities they should go in. Those are all things that the Product Owner is accountable for, however, can get help from other people. 

While the development team is focused on building a product increment and the Scrum Master is focused on the overall health and effectiveness of the team, the Product Owner is still thinking about the end-user.

      • What solves their needs? 
      • What are the next most important needs to solve? 
      • What are the unanswered questions that need to be resolved and brought into the team so they can make a more effective product?

So if you want to be a great Product Owner you need to always be thinking of what does the customer or end-user need and how can I connect the rest of the Scrum Team to that.

What about teams who are looking for a list of tasks they will be assigned to complete?

It is not uncommon with new Scrum Teams that the development team will just look for “what exactly am I supposed to build - give me a list of tasks”. This is normal, as this is how they have worked for many years. However, Scrum is different. In Scrum, we are trying as a whole team to tackle complex problems. Problems that often we don’t know the answer to. So as a Product Owner you need to help keep the voice of the customer in that conversation. You’re bringing the most pressing challenges to the team - not the most important solutions. So it is often valuable to remind the team, as you start backlog refinement meetings and planning sessions, the Product Owner is there as the voice of the customer to help connect and translate what is the highest priority, what is the highest value work to be focusing on.  

What about very needy stakeholders?

As a Product Owner it is not uncommon that you’re going to have stakeholders that have an idea of how something should be delivered, think that their piece of work is the most important and always wanting to know exactly what is going on and when it will be delivered. This is normal. Every Product Owner has to deal with this. So what do you do when that happens? 

As a Product Owner you need to understand the needs of the stakeholder and then devise a framework for engaging with those stakeholders and identifying what is the most valuable work. You shouldn’t try to hide this from the stakeholders. Invite them into the conversation. Often invite many stakeholders into the same conversation so they can all see how their needs align with one another. 

If you have a particular mechanism that you’re using to determine value, it’s important to share that early on. If your team is building a product that helps another team be more effective, then maybe that is one of the metrics you’re going to use to determine what is the most valuable work to do. Then when a stakeholder comes to you and says: “I want this done and here is why it’s important”, they already know the framework their value will be judged against. For those stakeholders who always want more information, there are real needs behind that. Reach out to them and understand what their needs are.


                • Are they using that information for planning or budget purposes? 
                • Are they using it to plan trade shows? 
                • What is it they are trying to do with that information?

And then help them succeed. Help them get the information that they need to make the decisions that they need to make.


Watch the recording of Daniel's webinar on "What makes a great Product Owner?".

*Click here to read Part 2 blog post* 

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