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Creating a better relationship with your product owner

If you are a scrum master, you will probably spend a large part of your day speaking with your product owner about requirements, product backlog, feedback on stories, bugs, team updates, etc.

This can be a tricky relationship, especially in the time of the COVID pandemic, since everyone is working remotely, so you might not have as much time as you like, to spend with your product owner.

In addition to that, the product owner is trying to do the best for the product and her stakeholders.

It is your job as a scrum master to communicate her vision to the team while keeping in mind their needs, issues, and limitations.

Not to mention, the product owner is the final decision maker when it comes to the product backlog and requirements, so our relationship with our product owner must be healthy, supportive, and built on trust.

Here are a few ways you can do that.

Create a deliberate and conscious contract:

Ideally, this should be done at the beginning of each project, but if you are in the middle of the project and realize you need to do this, I highly encourage you to do that in your next meeting.

You want to set clear expectations with your product owner on:

  • What is each of your responsibilities on your team? Here are some examples of duties you can talk about:

  • Who will take the lead in speaking with stakeholders?

  • Who will be doing regular product backlog grooming?

  • Who will be writing stories?

  • What are your expectations from each other(it is essential to be detailed here)? Some examples of things you should speak about here:

  • What part of the day will your product owner be actively working on the project?

  • What team meetings do you think the product owner needs to be a part of(if she is working on the project part-time)

  • How long does the product owner have to verify a story?

  • What is each of your strengths? Some examples:

  • Which of you has a good eye for design?

  • Which of you has a great understanding of technical infrastructure?

  • Which of you is a better negotiator?

Once you have discussed all of the above, I encourage you to write it down in a shared document so you can go back to this contract often. This contract will create a foundation on which a healthy relationship will be built with your product owner.

Communicate often:

In addition to daily stand-ups, sprint planning meetings, etc., I recommend you have time to set up clear communication guidelines and stick to them. I also recommend that as much as possible avoid having lengthy discussions on email, but instead have regular in-person chats.

Reflect and improve:

With all of the product owners I work with, I try to have a Friday evening coffee(I even put this in our calendar!).

This is the time to regroup and reflect on what has been going well and what are the changes we need to make. Do we need to revisit our contract? Was there a blocker this week for the team that we could have easily avoided? Were there any miscommunications? Do we need to put a new system in place? These are all great questions and build a relationship of trust and a sense of team.

I hope you have found these tips useful! Let me know if there are any questions.

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