Any Product Owner faces challenges in the organization that are not directly related to the content and value of the product. For example limited decision making power, dependencies, strict company policies, vendor contracts, annual budgeting tied to scope, a difficult relationship with a stakeholder, etc. As a Product Owner you definitely feel the pain of the examples above. And you probably actively manage your stakeholders. But the Scrum Master is in a much better position to take ownership of these kind of organizational impediments. Especially if you combine powers and utilize the Product Owner and Scrum Master symbiosis.

Why Product Owners manage impediments

The majority of Product Owners I have spoken with – around 400 at the time of writing – spend a lot of time on trying to optimize the organization to enable a more agile way of working. When I ask why they spend relatively so much time on this, common replies are:

  • “If I don’t, no one else will.”
  • “If I don’t, I cannot do my work properly”
  • “It’s stakeholder management, isn’t it?”

When we dig a bit deeper, we can discover common root causes:

  • There is no Scrum Master role at all
  • Although there is a Scrum Master, the Product Owner doesn’t feel supported on these matters
  • Misunderstanding of the Scrum roles and responsibilities

Why is this a problem?

A Product Owner has many product management activities to take care of in order to maximize the value of the product. Spending significant time and effort on other things means less focus on maximizing value. But luckily, the Scrum Master can be of great service here.

A Scrum Master focusses on supporting & promoting Scrum, throughout the whole organization. And one of these aspects is causing change that increases the productivity of the Scrum Team. Since the Scrum Master can act from the sideline, and doesn’t have formal power towards stakeholders, the Scrum Master is in a much better position to address organisational challenges and pursue sustainable change. And spreading agility should be the core focal point for any Scrum Master.

What I have seen work well

I have seen great results when Product Owner and Scrum Master work closely together on organizational matters, outside of the Scrum Team. The Product Owner can detect the symptoms early, and the stakeholder network can be of great value to get in touch with the right people. The Scrum Master takes ownership when connections have been made and actively manages and navigates the impediment. And regularly spars with the Product Owner to help determine the course of action. Or even pairing up, similar to the Extreme Programming practice pair programming.

Conclusion

Make sure everyone understands and respects the roles and responsibilities of Scrum. Strive for optimal focus. Then you can greatly benefit from close collaboration between Product Owner and Scrum Master, on all kinds of organizational challenges that are limiting your value maximizing capabilities.

So have a conversation with your Product Owner or Scrum Master. And discover how you could benefit from the Product Owner and Scrum Master symbiosis. Experiment, inspect, and adapt.