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Worst Contribution from a Product Owner that You Know Of

Product Owner’s Misstep

There’s never a good time for a Scrum Team to be slanted, unsupported or left feeling surprised.  A Scrum Team is all about transparency, dependability and teamwork throughout good and bad situations.

Setting the Stage at the Sprint Review 

Imagine a meeting room brimming with anticipation after all the stakes are high for every team member at a Sprint review.

Now, picture this: as the sprint review gets into full swing, the stakeholders are brimful with expectations.

With the natural order of a Sprint Review, the next demo starts and when it wraps up, a puzzled voice rings out from the customer, questioning the very choices that led to the product’s creation.   Clearly, they were not satisfied with the demo.  🤔

“Why did you build it that way?” they asked, voicing their dissatisfaction.

“You’ve made choices we don’t like, so why did you build it that way?”

An Unexpected Turn

In situations like this, one would hope and expect the Product Owner, the very fulcrum of decision-making and the custodian of the product vision, to step up, clarify, mediate, align expectations and be the bridge between the stakeholder and team decisions.

A Scrum Team should be able to expect a shield and not a sword.

However, in what was probably the worst product owner experience I’ve witnessed, the product owner did the exact opposite.

Instead of supporting or defending the choices made, this product owner turned to the development team and surprisingly amplified the customer’s concerns with a sharp, “Yes, why did you build it that way?”

This product owner effectively unprofessionally pointed the finger right back at the development team.

Balancing Accountability and Support 

The essence of a  professional product owner is to balance accountability and support for their team.    This incident highlights an often-overlooked facet of being a product owner.

While it’s integral to ensure that stakeholder requirements are met, it’s equally crucial to stand by the team’s decisions, especially when they are put on the spot.

This awkward and unprofessional situation served as a stark reminder –  While accountability is a cornerstone in Agile, throwing one’s team under the proverbial bus is an unanticipated, unwelcome route.

It’s crucial to remember that the best product owners take responsibility and support their teams in the face of criticism.

The Key Takeaway

Throwing the entire team under the bus during a sprint review is far from the collaborative spirit that Agile champions.

The key takeaway?

It’s pivotal for product owners to strike a balance between stakeholder expectations and backing their team.

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