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In Scrum, is a Scrum Master position higher than a Product Owner, in terms of organizational hierarchy?

At work, traditional organizational charts are a must; how are Scrum Masters and Product Owners placed? Do they assume an equal level? Or should one be reporting to another?

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    Also, Agile is not a methodology. It is a set of values. Scrum is one way (of many) through which you can implement those values through a defined process. It takes most people a while to get this part but it will come. – Venture2099 Aug 4 '15 at 5:48
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It's impossible to answer your question because "Scrum Master" and "Product Owner" are roles, not job titles. Their job positions may be different and depend on the company.

For example, a Product Owner could be:

  • A business analyst at your company.
  • A person from the customer side (i.e. outside your company).
  • Or even the СЕО of your company (it's not rare if the company is small).
  • Etc.

As another example, the Scrum Master could be a:

  • Developer. In my opinion, this is not the best choice, but it happens quite often.
  • External Scrum coach (i.e. outside your company).
  • Manager of your company. For example, the head of the development department.
  • Etc.

But on the other hand, the roles "Scrum Master" and "Product Owner" have absolutely different fields of responsibility and cannot affect each other. "Scrum Master" is more about process/operational management, and is responsible for the development process of the product. "Product Owner" is more about product/project management, responsible for the business side of the product. And, of course, neither Scrum Master nor Product Owner can command Development Team members or each other.

In the case of a CEO as Product Owner: he can fire the Scrum Master, but he will do it as CEO, not as a Product Owner.

So, the roles "Scrum Master" and "Product Owner" are on the same hierarchical level. But persons who play these roles could have job positions on different levels.


About Reporting

Reporting inside the Scrum Team is unnecessary. Scrum provides good transparency of the whole process, and participating in prescribed Scrum Events covers all reporting needs. The Product Owner could report outside Scrum Team, but the description of it goes beyond Scrum.

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Scrum says nothing about hierachy.

Thr Scrum Master position is not a higher position than the PO or the DevTeam position.

The idea is to not think in hierachy levels! Think about a team of peoply wanting to deliver high quality products!

There is no reporting inside thr Scrum Team. It's just not needed to report, because of the high transparency everywhere!

  • I see. Thank you for the insight @berna. However, if your organization insists that you must create an organizational chart, what would it most likely look like? – regularslasher Aug 4 '15 at 5:38
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    As a Scrum Master of that organization you should coach them in a way not to insist on such hierarchical charts. However, if you have no choice I would have the Scrum Master and the Product Owner on the same level. The responsibility of the PO is to maximize the value of the work, the responsibility of the Scrum Master is to optimize productivity and processes. In my opinion these responsibilities highly depend on each other and are of equal value for the organization! – bema Aug 4 '15 at 5:46
  • I agree with everything except the part that the Scrum team has no internal reporting. Of course it does, individuals still need pay reviews, career guidance from managers and one to ones. The nature of career progression is not fundamentally changed by Scrum. Sometimes the Scrum Master acts as a manager but it is not recommended. In a matrix management situation it is likely the developers will be managed by someone external to the Scrum Team which should be temporary for the duration of a project(s). – Venture2099 Aug 4 '15 at 5:53
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    A Scrum Team consists of only 3 roles: Product Owner, Development Team and Scrum Master. Between these roles no reporting is needed. Of course there is still reporting to the line management. However, inside the Scrum Team reporting should not be needed because of how Scrum is structured – bema Aug 4 '15 at 6:00
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    @regularslasher you've probably received an answer by now or no longer need it, but if the organisation insists, from me they would receive one very long line of equally positioned people, with notes on the responsibilities each person has. If they feel that is unacceptable, I would probably put the Product Owner as bing the one above the team, since they are ultimately responsible for ensuring that the product the team creates is the product the 'customer' needs. – Cronax Mar 4 '16 at 11:38
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TL;DR

In Agile Methodology, is a Scrum Master position higher than a Product Owner, in terms of organizational hierarchy?

No.

The Scrum framework requires active collaboration between Scrum roles, and between the business (or customer) and the Scrum team. Hierarchical relationships within the Scrum team are antithetical to effective implementation of the Scrum framework, but Scrum itself is agnostic about organizational roles and relationships that exist outside of the framework.

Within the team, each role has responsibilities that are dictated by the framework. This is not intended to be hierarchical, but rather serves as a clear separation of duties to ensure smooth functioning of the process.

Think Responsibilities, Not Authority

Within the Scrum framework, each role has a scope of responsibility that must be respected by the other roles, but the roles themselves aren't hierarchical. Instead, the roles collaborate in the implementation of the Scrum process.

For example, the Product Owner is the final arbiter of the contents and priorities of Product Backlog items. While other members of the organization or Scrum team may provide input, this responsibility ultimately rests solely with the Product Owner.

Likewise, the Scrum Master is the final arbiter of the Scrum process. As the process referee, the Scrum Master has the final responsibility to ensure that the team's processes are communicated clearly, that essential Scrum ceremonies are held properly, and that Scrum artifacts like the Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog are properly implemented.

When people talk about a Scrum team being cross-functional, this doesn't mean just technical skills; it also means that the team must contain all the necessary leadership skills necessary to deliver a working product. This requires active cooperation among the roles (think "zone defense") rather than a formal reporting relationship or command-and-control management.

Money Equals Power

From a purely pragmatic standpoint, the Product Owner manages the allocation of project resources through the Product Backlog. As a result, the Product Owner is often organizationally higher on the food chain than other team members because he or she is tasked with controlling the budget and held responsible for product delivery. However, this is a political side-effect, rather than a tenet of Scrum.

Within the Scrum framework, the Product Owner is a partner with specific responsibilities, and is not senior to anyone else within the Scrum team. The Product Owner may not infringe on the Scrum Master or Developer roles and responsibilities within the process.

From outside the Scrum team, control of resource allocation may lead to the impression that the Scrum team reports to the Product Owner. This is not true, and it is the Scrum Master's job to educate the team and the organization about how Scrum actually works.

Scrum cannot work without active cooperation between all three Scrum roles. The roles should be considered peers in order to adhere to the principles behind the Agile Manifesto.

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Based on the usual company organisational charts, they are not in the same division. Usually Product Owners come from the product side, and Scrum Masters from the line organisation or development. Therefore, there can be cases that they are on the same level (e.g. junior PO - regular SM) or different levels.

Informally, Product Owners are higher in the food chain, because of the responsibility and accountability they have.

  • In the real world, can a PO come from the client side? – regularslasher Aug 5 '15 at 2:09
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    Sure, why not, but it is very rare. Usually PO comes from the organisation and keeps in touch with the customer. – Zsolt Aug 5 '15 at 9:00

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