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If you are working as a product owner, there is — very likely — room for improvement. I curated the most common product owner anti-patterns to help you up your game. If you like to improve on those anti-patterns that you recognize why don’t you ask the scrum master and the team for support? The product owner anti-patterns list is a good starting point for a mutually beneficial retrospective.
According to the Scrum Guide, the product owner is sole and accountable person optimizing the work of the engineers. In other words, the product owner has ideas or identifies ideas, or at least he or she curates suitable ideas from wherever and validates them whether those ideas are “product backlog worthy” or not. In my experience, this approach turns the product owner into the Achilles heel — or bottleneck by design — of the whole process. If you "remove" the PO as an independent and respected role, for example, by sticking with your organizations' stage-gate process, Scrum easily mutates into a Waterfall 2.0 process.
This Hands-on Agile webinar addresses 12 familiar product owner anti-patterns interfering with the concept of the Scrum product owner role. Learn how to improve your professional performance by avoiding the typical product owner mistakes: from oversized product backlogs and prioritization by proxy, to be absent during the sprint, and outing yourself as a loner during the sprint review.
HOST: Stefan Wolpers
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BLOG: “Product Owner Anti-Patterns”: https://age-of-product.com/product-owner-anti-patterns/
(1) The first anti-pattern covers the oversized product backlog: The product backlog contains more items than the scrum team can deliver within three to four sprints. This way the product owner creates waste by hoarding issues that might never materialize. The product owner is probably using the product backlog as a repository of ideas and requirements. (This practice is clogging the product backlog, may lead to a cognitive overload and makes alignment with the ‘big picture’ at portfolio management and roadmap planning level very tough.)
(2) The second anti-pattern covers creating the product backlog in the wrong way: The product owner treats product backlog items not as a token for discussion to build a shared understanding of the why, how, and what with the team, but as deliverables. Often, the PO creates product backlog items upfront by copying from requirement documents without including other members of the scrum team.
(3) The third anti-pattern covers the weak product owner: The PO has not learned to say no to stakeholders demanding new requests. Trying to being everybody’s darling creates mediocre products that do not scale, though. It also defies the product owner’s most important duty: protecting the product backlog from tasks with little or no value.
(4) The fourth anti-pattern covers prioritization by proxy: A single stakeholder or a committee of stakeholder prioritizes the product backlog — not the product owner. (The strength of Scrum is building on the strong position of the product owner. The product owner is the only person to decide what tasks become product backlog items. Hence, the product owner also decides on the priority. Take away that empowerment, and Scrum turns into a pretty robust waterfall 2.0 process.)
(5) The fifth anti-pattern covers the omniscient product owner: The PO does not involve stakeholders or subject matter experts in the refinement process, and probably not even the Scrum team.
(6) The sixth episode covers the lack of a sprint goal: The product owner cannot provide a sprint goal, or the chosen sprint goal is flawed.
(7) The seventh anti-pattern covers the pushy PO: The product owner pushes the development team to take on more tasks than it could realistically handle. Probably, the product owner is referring to former team metrics such as velocity to support his or her desire.
(8) The eighth anti-pattern covers how the product owner might be toying with the definition of ready. The PO tries to squeeze in some last-minute user stories that do not meet the definition of ready.
(9) The ninth anti-pattern covers the absent product owner. If the PO is not available for immediate clarification, he or she will create artificial queues that probably will put the scrum team’s sprint goal at risk.
(10) The tenth anti-pattern covers the product owner who cannot let go product backlog items once they become sprint backlog items.
(11) The eleventh anti-pattern covers the selfish product owner, presenting “his or her” accomplishments to the stakeholders.
(12) The twelveth anti-pattern covers the unapproachable, the broadcasting product owner.