Scrum challenge – The ScrumMaster and Product Owner balance

Some years ago I made the picture with the “Right Thing” and the “Right Way” to describe to focus and role for the ScrumMaster and Product Owner. The Product Owner must focus on what to work on and make sure the Team are working on the Right Thing in the best possible order where the ScrumMaster must focus on how things are being worked on to make sure it is the best possible way.

I have often seen this to be difficult, because traditionally it is used to be handled only by the Project Manager. Now it is split between two different roles (people). During the last couple of years I have especially seen this challenge in hybrid setup with more focus on traditional project management mixed with different agile practices. In a number of different organizations I have worked with teams (and projects), where the there is a project manager, who is trying to make sure the right thing is done in the right way. Very often with the result of more waterfall driven process either focusing on the right thing OR the right way. Most often it is in the red area in the picture. If they try to adopt Scrum, they often have a large gab in Product Owner role and need skills to be developed in this area.

The picture shows the 4 different scenarios:

1. Slow Failure
When both the ScrumMaster and Product Owner are doing a bad job, the wrong thing will be implemented in the wrong way with the result of “Slow Failure”. It will take some time to see this problem in the organization.

2. Shore Term Success
A good Product Owner making sure the right thing is being worked on by the Team, but it is not being done in the right way (ScrumMaster). In this scenario I have often seen technical debt increasing when not considering areas like agile architecture and implementing features too fast.

3. Fast Failure
Focus on using the Scrum framework and by doing this, many problems with is uncovered. In this scenario, there is a limitation in the Product Owner role to make sure the team is working on the right thing. I have seen this scenario with many new Scrum teams, where there is no one to fulfill the Product Owner role. It is a painful state to be in for a longer time.

4. Long Term Success
In this scenario the Product Owner is making sure the team is working on the right thing and the ScrumMaster is making sure it is done the right way. This is the most ideal setup for the team that can focus on making deliveries high value and with long term success. I hope this will be the most common scenarios for Scrum team in the future.

Based on my practical experience, I think we are getting better on the way of working (ScrumMaster), but the Product Owner role is still a weak area.

Why can’t we get better on making sure we are working on the right thing?

Posted on July 25, 2011, in Scrum. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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