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Agile Coaches' Corner shares practical concepts in an approachable way. It is for agile practitioners and business leaders seeking expert advice on improving the way they work to achieve their desired outcomes. If you have a topic you'd like discussed, email it to, or tweet it with #agilethoughtpodcast.

Sep 13, 2019

This week, on the Agile Coaches’ Corner, your host Dan Neumann and his AgileThought colleague, Sam Falco, will be taking a look at the Product Owner role in Scrum! The Product Owner Role sometimes gets overlooked in a lot of discussions around Scrum — yet, they’re one of the most important, complex, and crucial roles. They’re the visionary behind the product. Primarily, their responsibility to the Scrum team is to maximize the value of what the development team creates.


Tune in to hear Dan and Sam’s conversation to get more insight into the incredibly important Product Owner role — what it is, the challenges of being one, the valuable traits and skills for a PO to have, and some of the anti-patterns around the role!


Key Takeaways

What is the Product Owner Role in Scrum?

  • It is one of the three roles of Scrum (product owner, scrum master, and the development team)
  • They’re the visionary behind the product
  • They’re a crucial reason to why we have Scrum teams in the first place — they’re feeding the Scrum team the most valuable backlog items to turn into an increment of product every sprint
  • The primary role of the Product Owner is to maximize the value of what the development team creates
  • It’s important that it’s only one person; not a committee

Challenges of the Product Owner Role:

  • Managing and representing the opinions and voices of the dev team and stakeholders by distilling them into a coherent product backlog that’s optimized for value

Valuable traits for a Product Owner:

  • Someone with a distinct understanding of the market and a vision for a product that they want to bring into the world
  • An entrepreneurial mindset
  • Someone with very deep domain knowledge and business knowledge
  • Understands the customers (or potential customers)
  • Decisiveness
  • Open-mindedness
  • Strong leadership skills and the ability to motivate others

Important skills for a Product Owner to have:

  • Domain and business knowledge
  • The ability to write a good business proposal as well as a strong canvas that articulates to funders what it is you’re trying to accomplish
  • A willingness to test your hypothesis and do market research
  • Communication skills and articulating things in a way that makes sense to your development team
  • Negotiation skills
  • Having a well-crafted and well-ordered backlog
  • Being able to define the sprint goal
  • Being able to communicate the vision and having the organizational skills to put the backlog in a good order so the dev team, customers, and stakeholders always know what’s next
  • Technical skills (though it is not a must-have, it is helpful for them to have an understanding of the technology they’re working with) — but be careful, a PO with technical chops can sometimes interfere with the dev team

Anti-patterns within organizations that are not setting up their Product Owner for success:

  • Having someone without the right traits and skills in the Product Owner role
  • Having a proxy PO stand-in for the real Product Owner, which jumbles the message and leads to “answer shopping”
  • Having the role split into two people (where one becomes the ‘business’ PO owner and the other person becomes the ‘technical’ PO), which affects team self-organization and leads to uncertainty

Product Owner anti-patterns:

  • Rigidity
  • Disregarding estimates
  • Product Owner is an ‘order-taker’; simply taking notes and doing everything that is said (which causes issues because they cannot articulate a clear vision)
  • When a Product Owner is not valuing everyone’s opinions equally (and instead, giving more value to those who are loudest or had the last say)
  • Presenting a release plan to stakeholders that is wildly at odds with what the dev team can accomplish and expecting the dev team to live up to that
  • Unbalanced focus and either being too involved with the dev team or not enough
  • Spending too much time with the stakeholders
  • Only showing up for sprint reviews


Mentioned in this Episode:


User Stories

The Professional Product Owner: Leveraging Scrum as a Competitive Advantage,
by Don McGreal and Ralph Jocham

Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts, by Annie Duke


Sam Falco’s Book Pick:

Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers, by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur


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