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Product owner and anti patterns

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Product owner and anti patterns

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In Scrum, Product Owner is an important role. The PO is accountable for Product Success. However, more often than not we see that only 20% of all the features of a Product are widely used. Why does this happen? IMHO, this happens because POs are often distracted due to various reasons. This leads to certain anti-patterns in the PO role, which I tried to explore.

In Scrum, Product Owner is an important role. The PO is accountable for Product Success. However, more often than not we see that only 20% of all the features of a Product are widely used. Why does this happen? IMHO, this happens because POs are often distracted due to various reasons. This leads to certain anti-patterns in the PO role, which I tried to explore.

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Product owner and anti patterns

  1. 1. The Product Owner Anti- Patterns
  2. 2. Who is a Product Owner?
  3. 3. Accountable for the Product Success Maximizes the value of work done by development team Manages the Product Backlog Ensures that the Product Backlog is visible, transparent, and clear to all
  4. 4. Inaccessible Product Owner • PO is not available for a quick feedback. • PO is completely customer facing.
  5. 5. Remedies that worked for me • Block dedicated PO time • PO needs to full time, not proxy • Raise impediment at organization level
  6. 6. Inadequate Product Backlog management • Not enough PBIs are Ready to be picked up for the next sprints. • PO does not provide clarity or does not have enough clarity on PBIs in Product Backlog • PO does not understand how to make PBIs meet INVEST criteria.
  7. 7. Remedies that worked for me • Coach PO with advantages for Product Backlog refinement • Coach PO why PBIs need to meet INVEST criteria.
  8. 8. Partially completed PBIs accepted • PO keeps accepting PBIs which are incomplete. • Team also does not focus on building a releasable increment of the product.
  9. 9. Remedies that worked for me • Help PO and team create a DoD and coach the impact of not delivering a releasable increment. • Emphasize on the purpose of the sprint.
  10. 10. Failure to Trust • Identify additional work for the team. • Create stretch objectives for the team.
  11. 11. Remedies that worked for me • Create a fail safe environment. • Supporting the culture of self-organization within boundaries. • Coaching PO how Trust is the foundation for Scrum to work.
  12. 12. Product Owner is not empowered • There is a product management team that directs PO • No single Product Owner • Proxy Product Owner • Role Confusion
  13. 13. Remedies that worked for me • Bring in the clarity associated with the accountability of each Role in Scrum framework. • Create an alignment that PO is accountable for product success. For PO to succeed the entire organization must respect the decisions made by PO.
  14. 14. Quantity over quality • Doing more and more PBIs without focus on quality • Churning the backlog without spending enough time in planning • New PBIs get added to sprint backlog • Focus keeps changing • Unfinished code
  15. 15. Remedies that worked for me • Create a Product vision and make PO and stakeholders commit to it. • Have some release plan in place which gives an overview in which direction we are moving. • Emphasize on quality, help define a DoD.
  16. 16. Estimates as deadlines • Holding team estimates as commitment • Forcing team to adhere to estimates
  17. 17. Remedies that worked for me • Bringing the shared understanding that team commits to sprint goal. • Commitment is to collaborate with PO. • Estimates are only good to bring in some level of predictability and nothing else.
  18. 18. Stakeholder Management • Stakeholders are not identified from the start. • Stakeholders are not invited to reviews for getting feedback on time. • Always saying Yes to all the requirements, ideas coming from stakeholders.
  19. 19. Remedies that worked for me • Identifying the key stakeholders • Coaching PO that having stakeholders during reviews helps team to inspect and adapt quickly. • Coaching stakeholders how Sprint Review is an inspect and adapt event which fosters collaboration.

Editor's Notes

  • When the Product Owner starts to deviate from the said accountabilities we start to see that project start to fail and a number of anti-patterns arise.
  • Team makes decisions on its own.
    Team delivers features which are:
    Low Priority
    Incorrect
    Less value
  • Every time I want to talk to PO for clarification; he is another meeting or is out speaking to customers.
    PO is not bothered if there is quality in deliverables or not; even if features are half cooked they are accepted. Remaining work can be done next sprint.
    No clear vision to where the product roadmap leads to.
    We have a Product Backlog which is rarely refined, we do not have clarity on PBIs coming up in next sprint.
    PBIs are created but do not have INVEST criteria.
    Failure to trust: Creating Stretch objectives for team; identifying extra work for teams believing they might finish there work earlier.
  • Every time I want to talk to PO for clarification; he is another meeting or is out speaking to customers.
    PO is not bothered if there is quality in deliverables or not; even if features are half cooked they are accepted. Remaining work can be done next sprint.
    No clear vision to where the product roadmap leads to.
    We have a Product Backlog which is rarely refined, we do not have clarity on PBIs coming up in next sprint.
    PBIs are created but do not have INVEST criteria.
    Failure to trust: Creating Stretch objectives for team; identifying extra work for teams believing they might finish there work earlier.
  • Every time I want to talk to PO for clarification; he is another meeting or is out speaking to customers.
    PO is not bothered if there is quality in deliverables or not; even if features are half cooked they are accepted. Remaining work can be done next sprint.
    No clear vision to where the product roadmap leads to.
    We have a Product Backlog which is rarely refined, we do not have clarity on PBIs coming up in next sprint.
    PBIs are created but do not have INVEST criteria.
    Failure to trust: Creating Stretch objectives for team; identifying extra work for teams believing they might finish there work earlier.
  • Every time I want to talk to PO for clarification; he is another meeting or is out speaking to customers.
    PO is not bothered if there is quality in deliverables or not; even if features are half cooked they are accepted. Remaining work can be done next sprint.
    No clear vision to where the product roadmap leads to.
    We have a Product Backlog which is rarely refined, we do not have clarity on PBIs coming up in next sprint.
    PBIs are created but do not have INVEST criteria.
    Failure to trust: Creating Stretch objectives for team; identifying extra work for teams believing they might finish there work earlier.
  • Every time I want to talk to PO for clarification; he is another meeting or is out speaking to customers.
    PO is not bothered if there is quality in deliverables or not; even if features are half cooked they are accepted. Remaining work can be done next sprint.
    No clear vision to where the product roadmap leads to.
    We have a Product Backlog which is rarely refined, we do not have clarity on PBIs coming up in next sprint.
    PBIs are created but do not have INVEST criteria.
    Failure to trust: Creating Stretch objectives for team; identifying extra work for teams believing they might finish there work earlier.
  • Impacts:
    Distrust within the scrum team
    Development team feels micro-managed
    Diminishing morale.
  • David is Product Owner at the Sprint Planning.
    He presents a Product Backlog different from what
    he and the other Product Managers agreed on.
    After more than 3 hours of bickering, David and the
    Product Managers are nowhere.


    Team doesn’t know whose direction to follow
    What are the next things that need to be worked upon are not clear.


    Role Confusion: PO is also a Scrum Master

    One word of caution: I am speaking from the perspective of Single Product and not a product line
  • Quantity over quality: Tech Debt
  • Brings in micro management
    An environment of distrust is created
    Team may cut corners in quality to meet the estimates.
  • In case anyone of you is interested in knowing more about the PO role and wants to understand it in details then we have a PSPO training coming up in month of June.

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