Overruling the Product Owner? — Making Your Scrum Work #21

TL; DR: Overruling the Product Owner

There are plenty of failure possibilities with Scrum. Since Scrum is an intentionally incomplete framework with a reasonable yet short “manual,” this effect should not surprise anyone. For example, what if the stakeholders—who bring the budget that is funding your Scrum team—insist on calling the shots by overruling the Product Owner’s prerogative to define the composition and the ordering the Product Backlog? What if your stakeholders suffer from the “my budget, my feature” syndrome?

Join me and delve into the effects of overruling the Product Owner in less than 140 seconds.

Overruling the Product Owner? — Making Your Scrum Work #21 — Age-of-Product.com

🗳 Update: Join the poll and its lively discussion on budgeting in Scrum.

🗞 Shall I notify you about articles like this one? Awesome! You can sign up here for the ‘Food for Agile Thought’ newsletter and join 33,000-plus subscribers.

🎓 Join Stefan in one of his upcoming Professional Scrum training classes!

Agile Metrics Survey 2021 — Free Download — Age-of-Product.com

📈 Free: Download the Agile Metrics Survey 2021.

The Scrum Guide on the Product Owner

Let’s refresh our memories regarding the job of the Product Owner:

The Product Owner is accountable for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team. How this is done may vary widely across organizations, Scrum Teams, and individuals. […] For Product Owners to succeed, the entire organization must respect their decisions. […] The Product Owner is one person, not a committee. The Product Owner may represent the needs of many stakeholders in the Product Backlog. Those wanting to change the Product Backlog can do so by trying to convince the Product Owner.

Source: The Scrum Guide on the Product Owner.

The key to understanding today’s overruling the Product Owner anti-pattern is the last sentence: “Those wanting to change the Product Backlog can do so by trying to convince the Product Owner.” It is the prerogative of the Product Owner to define the composition and the ordering of the Product Backlog. No one has the right to interfere with that competence.

Stakeholders may lobby for a change of the Product Backlog, pitching their needs in a general competition for the capacity of the Scrum team. However, pulling rank or—here—pointing at bringing the budget derails the whole Scrum process and is hence counter-productive.

Cannot see the form?
Please click here

Overruling the Product Owner

The Problem: The organization nominally adapts agile practices but sticks with the traditional ways of figuring out what is worth building:

  • Pitch an idea to the management,
  • Get a budget,
  • Treat the product people as an internal agency to deliver what you want—it is your budget, isn’t it?

The Consequences: Think “Agile PMO,” metered funding, contract negotiations, and “servant-leadership” by status reports. (Concerning the Manifesto of Agile Software Development, we are back to square one.) Typically, this results in misalignment of efforts at an organizational level and stimulates local optimization initiatives within functional silos.

The Solution: Break up functional silos, consider practices like Beyond Budgeting, create empowered product teams tasked with autonomously solving customer problems, and link bonuses strictly to the organization’s overall progress during the agile transformation. Embracing business agility as an organization does not work while trying to preserve organizational structures from the 1920s.


Overruling the Product Owner — Conclusion

Given the responsibilities of the Product Owner, stakeholders may lobby for a change of the Product Backlog. However, pointing at bringing the budget to the party as a stakeholder and demanding the right to determine what will be built derails the whole Scrum process. Furthermore, it is counter-productive for an organization’s aspiration to become agile.

Have you been overruled as a Product Owner? How did you deal with that? Please share your learnings with us in the comments.

✋ Do Not Miss Out: Join the 10,000-plus Strong ‘Hands-on Agile’ Slack Team

I invite you to join the “Hands-on Agile” Slack team and enjoy the benefits of a fast-growing, vibrant community of agile practitioners from around the world.

Join the Hands-on Agile Slack Group, Learn more about the Developers Code Fallacy

If you like to join now all you have to do now is provide your credentials via this Google form, and I will sign you up. By the way, it’s free.

📖 Overruling the Product Owner — Related Posts

Scrum First Principles — How to Elon Musk the Scrum Guide

Three Essential Agile Failure Patterns in 7:31 Minutes—Making Your Scrum Work #12

Product Owner Anti-Patterns — 31 Ways to Improve as a PO

The Meta-Retrospective — How To Get Customers and Stakeholders Onboard

Three Wide-Spread Product Owner Failures in 6:09 Minutes—Making Your Scrum Work #5

Download the Scrum Anti-Patterns Guide for free.

📅 Join Scrum Training Classes, Workshops, and Events to Learn How to Avoid Overruling the Product Owner

DateClass and LanguageCityPrice
🖥 💯 🇩🇪 November 23-26, 2021GUARANTEED: Advanced Professional Scrum Master Online Training (PSM II; German; Live Virtual Class)Live Virtual Class €1.199 incl. 19% VAT
🖥 💯 🇬🇧 November 30, 2021GUARANTEED: Hands-on Agile #37: Agile Metrics Survey 2021—Alexander Bergmann & Stefan Wolpers (English)Live Virtual MeetupFREE
🖥 💯 🇩🇪 Nov 30 — Dec 3, 2021GUARANTEED: Professional Scrum Master Training (PSM I; German; Live Virtual Class)Live Virtual Class €1.199 incl. 19% VAT
🖥 🇬🇧 December 15-16, 2021Professional Scrum Master Training (PSM I; English; Live Virtual Class)Live Virtual Class €1.199 incl. 19% VAT
🖥 💯 🇩🇪 December 20-21, 2021GUARANTEED: Professional Scrum Product Owner Training (PSPO I; German; Live Virtual Class)Live Virtual Class €1.199 incl. 19% VAT
🖥 🇬🇧 January 25-28, 2022Advanced Professional Scrum Master Online Training (PSM II; English; Live Virtual Class)Live Virtual Class €1.199 incl. 19% VAT
🖥 🇩🇪 Jan 31 — Feb 1, 2022Professional Scrum Master Training (PSM I; German; Live Virtual Class)Live Virtual Class €1.199 incl. 19% VAT
🖥 🇬🇧 February 8-11, 2022Professional Scrum Product Owner Training (PSPO I; English; Live Virtual Class)Live Virtual Class €1.199 incl. 19% VAT
🖥 🇬🇧 February 15-18, 2022Professional Scrum Master Training (PSM I; English; Live Virtual Class)Live Virtual Class €1.199 incl. 19% VAT
🖥 🇩🇪 February 22-25, 2022Professional Scrum Product Owner Training (PSPO I; German; Live Virtual Class)Live Virtual Class €1.199 incl. 19% VAT
🖥 🇩🇪 March 7-8, 2022Advanced Professional Scrum Master Online Training (PSM II; German; Live Virtual Class)Live Virtual Class €1.199 incl. 19% VAT

See all upcoming classes here.

Professional Scrum Trainer Stefan Wolpers

You can book your seat for the training directly by following the corresponding links to the ticket shop. If the procurement process of your organization requires a different purchasing process, please contact Berlin Product People GmbH directly.

Find this content useful? Share it with your friends!

One thought on “Overruling the Product Owner? — Making Your Scrum Work #21”

  1. I am a product owner who is consistently overruled by management outside my team. I simply gave up. It became too stressful to keep fighting it. No amount of agile coaching was successful. It is depressing.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.