What’s the best way to work around multiple PO?

As part of the Scrum.org webinar “Ask a Professional Scrum Trainer – Martin Hinshelwood – Answering Your Most Pressing Scrum Questions” I was asked a number of questions. Since not only was I on the spot and live, I thought that I should answer each question that was asked again here, as well as those questions I did not get to.

In case you missed it, here is the recording of yesterday’s Ask a Professional Scrum Trainer webinar with Martin Hinshelwood! Watch here: http://ow.ly/ijiM50vwEkD

[Question] What’s the best way to work around multiple POs and the fact that they don’t give good stories and do not all show up for BR meetings to break down the incomplete stories. Small company.

It sounds to me like you don’t have any Product Owners. There does not seem to be anyone at your organisation taking ownership of the backlog and being accountable for value delivery.

My first choice would be to raise this with management and ask:

  • Is it ok to spend money on items that have not been validated as needed?
  • Is it ok to spend money on what might not be the next most important thing for the business?

The value of the Product Owner is someone that can focus on the Product and its future direction. While everyone on the Scrum Team(s) are responsible for the product future, the Product Owner can focus specifically on market, competition, and user trends to shape and order the Product Backlog so that your Scrum Team is able to deliver the next most important feature for the business. This is hard, a lot of work, and requires specialist skills that need practice, experimentation, and time to hone. Without these skills, coupled with good data, we are just fumbling in the dark and hoping that we randomly stumble upon a useful feature for our users.

Find the right Product Owner, or select someone from your team to take that responsibility while you find the right person. If it was me I would walk into the CEO’s office and lay the problem out, as well as the cost to the business of building the wrong features.

The industry average is that we spend 65% (Source: Standish Group) of our time working on the wrong feature. The Product Owners job is to maximize this figure. What does your CEO think is the cost of not having anyone at the helm?

While there are no right answers there are some answers that are better than others. For your given situation select the most right answer and iteration to the best version of it.