How many Product Owners do you need

What is the ratio of Product Owners / teams in your organization?
Please, let's play a little game: Before reading this post, write your answer in the comment, just a number, you don't need to explain... do you mind taking the challenge?


Why am i asking? Well… when Scaling Scrum (using the LeSS = “Large Scale Scrum” framework) there is a rule that there should be only one product owner

“There is one Product Owner and one Product Backlog for the complete shippable product”

Here are 4 reasons that explain why:

  1. ROI over ego
    It is common that managers in big organizations to try pull the product in different directions as a result of technical and/or political constraints, this causes the system to be sub-optimized and reduce its effectiveness.
    Having a single product owner ensures that priorities are driven by business value and not by ego, prestige or other irrelevant aspects, this one person is accountable for the ROI of the product from a whole product customer centric view.

  2. Simplicity over Complexity
    When having multiple product owners, it is still required to have another person often from marketing or a similar business unit that is focused on managing and synchronizing the work of the other product owners, in addition to the extra people we need (multiple Product Owners) coordination roles are wasteful and creates additional and unnecessary complexity which should be avoided.

  3. Direct communication over Proxies.
    Many will agree that when the developers understand customer needs they deliver better products. Given that Product Owner are mostly busy with prioritizing the requirements, having multiple product owners create a situation in which it is very tempting for the product owner to use her free time and “help” with things such as low level clarification of requirements which is the role of the development team.
    This harms the team-customer communication, that can eventually lead developers to develop the wrong requirements, or worst, not care about the customer.

  4. Empowerment over Micro-management
    When having one Product Owner per team, it is common that the Product Owner (as a result of free time and the will to contribute) starts interfering with the team’s work, specifically with execution related decisions such as design choices, team members work distribution and micro-status monitoring.
    This dynamic is bad for your organization and results in teams taking less responsibility and a drop in motivation.


These are the main reasons i see.

Got other reasons? Disagree? Please comment.
For more, follow me on twitter @eladsof


May the force be with you,

Elad Sofer.

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I read a lot of posts about “what is a good Scrum Master” and thought, these posts are way too positive and friendly.. why not take a more destructive approach and see things from the negative side?

And if you make it to the end of the post, an insightful question awaits. Here goes.. 

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Thursday, 17:30, attending a WebEx call with the Agile transformation team. The topic: majority of teams overcommitting virtually every sprint. The client organization wants to change that, so they can have a better forecast on remaining work, so they can tell their customers what's expected without unpleasant surprises after iterations end. You probably know the drill. The word of the day, for some time now, is Predictability: at the start of the iteration tell us, using your past performance, how much do you safely feel you can complete. This is Agile 101 - plan according to velocity.

Well, parallel processes are a funny thing. On my drive back home, and while I am connected to the weekly WebEx call, suddenly the connection drops. I can hear everyone well, and for some time I had a video feed (which is useless for me anyway as I am driving), however I cannot un-mute myself.

I feel grateful for Charles for pretty accurately describing what I said seconds before the un-mute function failed. And other than that, I feel frustrated and powerless.

During that time everything could have been against me. All the slow drivers prevent me from arriving quicker; the police car near-by prevents me from pulling over and trying to fix the connection, etc.

I guess that if I had not had that understanding about what was going on for me, these emotions could have overtaken me. This was reality for me.

Luckily for me, I don't. The moment I understand that the "knot" in my stomach, the sensation that all my nerves are tickling me was sign of what's going on for me in the Here and Now.

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On January 17th, 2008, BA flight 38 approached landing at London Heathrow airport. During its final approach one of the engines stopped. Shortly after, the second engine stopped too. At the moment when the pilots needed to increase thrust for their final approach towards the runway, the huge flying metal object became a weight dropping from the sky. The plain crashed about 300 metres from the runway. Miraculously only 47 people were injured (the worst injury was a broken limb) and there were no fatalities. As in any flight incident, the crash was investigated, and possible reasons were eliminated one by one. Pilots fuel operation fault, shortage of fuel, fuel pipes blockage - all were overruled. Finally investigators had one last hypothesis: when flying over the arctic, a fairly new route at the time, fuel flow was blocked due to humidity in the fuel freezing into ice crystals. They had no proof, since by the time of the crash all ice was melted. But this was their best bet. 

Although this is not the typical topic in a software team retrospective, the way airlines and aircraft makers handle incidents is indeed relevant for us. 

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Who cares? I do! Why?

First,  because it offers an opportunity for a blog post (that increase social media presence, etc.… J), second because some of you are using those words in a wrong way which leads to wrong decisions being made which leads to pain and suffering (more commonly known as poor performance). 

I am not trying to find right or wrong answers, or which is better, my aim is just to clarify meaning. Let's create some order in this confusion.

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