Joshua Kerievsky recently wrote a post entitled Eliminating the Product Owner role. As of December 3, 2018, it had received 766 likes and 162 comments on LinkedIn.
The opening premise of Joshua’s article is here:
Before I get into who or what would replace the PO role, let me offer a bit of background on this group. Three coaches, including myself, had assessed this group prior to beginning work with them. Our findings were typical:
Too much technical debt was slowing development to a crawl
There was insufficient clarity on what needed to be built
The developers spent little time with their Product Owner
The team was scattered around a building, not co-located
When you perform numerous assessments of teams or departments in many industries, you tend to see patterns. The above issues are common. We've worked out solutions to these problems eons ago. The challenge is whether people want to embrace change and actually solve their problems. This group apparently was hungry enough to want change.
So, springing from this problem statement, Josh makes the point that if you:
In our last Meta-cast, Josh Anderson and I explored the good and the bad around defining roles and responsibilities in agile contexts.
It’s a mixed bag really that requires some common sense and nuance. I think we landed on the need for them, but caution around the negative effects that they can have IF you’re trying to create a healthy instance of self-directed agile teams.
One place to start is looking at the Scrum Guide and how it handles the Scrum roles.
Beyond the basic definitions of the roles, I really like the collaboration advice given BETWEEN the roles. I’ve found that it’s the interplay between the Team, Product Owner, and ScrumMaster that really makes the difference in high-level team performance.
I’d recommend you read (and share) the guidance in the Scrum Guide.
If you’ve followed my blogging at all, you know that I’ve worked for several companies in the last 6-8 years that have colored my thinking as an agile coach. Sure, I’ve coached a wide variety of other organizations, but there’s nothing like being an employee of a company and assuming the role of technical leader and agile coach to get your attention each day.
One of those companies was iContact (now Vocus), which develops an email marketing SaaS platform. This story comes from my time spent there working with some wonderful development teams.