Currently working with the Product Owner/CEO in a Scrum role.

My management style is starting to clash with the PO. His style of management is the following:

  • working long hours and taking work home on weekends. 9am to 9pm with unpaid overtime. So far he has not imposed this onto us, mainly because there has been a lot of resistance from the Dev team and I. The teams he is leading (sales) are however working long hours 8-6 (9 hour days) when the should be working 8 hour days (40 hour weeks)

  • Waterfall method of management

  • Hard to please, always wants more.

  • Micro management, watching computer screens, being on people's back to ensure that they are doing the work.

  • Process driven

My style of the management:

  • Avoiding overtime at all costs, only resorting to it in an emergency situation. Strong believer in work/life balance and feel that 40 hours a week is A LOT of time to get work done.

  • Agile driven management

  • Process driven, with a heavy dose of planning sprints properly to avoid emergency situations from occurring.

  • Delegate work where and when I can, maximizing the resources as much as possible. Guiding colleagues as opposed to managing them.

  • Tracking the team's velocity without micromanaging them from reading burn down charts and addressing impediments during stand ups

  • Giving the development team a lot of freedom in terms of how they complete tasks once a backlog is committed and sprint has begun.

  • Keeping morale high, and subsequently keeping the team on my side to remain a positive influence and high work ethic.

I am finding that our management style is starting to clash, since I am being under pressure at times to change my management style to be more like his. I am currently looking for a new job where I can practice agile in an environment which truly embraces it. What other things can I do?

Tried talking to him about being more relaxed with the team citing a decrease of morale leading to poor quality work if we force the Dev team to work beyond their contracted hours.

Having no luck, he just thinks that we are not working hard enough since we are not working a lot of overtime. I.e. 9-11 hour days instead of the standard 8

Whilst I am here, I really want this company to change so that it properly embraces agile and continues to be ethically run once I move on.

  • 11
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because I don't think this is a project management question. This may be appropriate for workforce, or possibly for law. But I think you already know the answer; the manager's vision of the team and the company is violently at odds with your own. The only responsible thing to do is to find a company where you fit in. – Mark C. Wallace 39 secs ago edit
    – MCW
    Jun 27, 2016 at 17:43
  • I wonder if this is the big(ger) picture of your previous question Should UI/UX designers work directly with the Product Owner? Jun 27, 2016 at 22:02
  • 6
    It seems to me as if your CEO does not want to do Scrum. You cannot implement Scrum against the company. If the leader of the company does not want to work agile, you will need to find a better place to work.
    – nvoigt
    Jun 28, 2016 at 4:43
  • 1
    @nvoigt are there companies out there that do it properly? Totally getting disheartened right now. I really think it is an amazing way of doing things, it is the reason why I wanted to get into PM and it is working with us in the respect that I have seen how the product was pre-scrum and post-scrum. The problem is that everytime we are successful with it, CEO does not see as 'good project management' but as I wrote, he gets greedy for more work to be delivered. In large companies will stakeholders be any more understanding?
    – bobo2000
    Jun 28, 2016 at 8:54
  • 2
    @bobo2000 Yes they exist. It's not a matter of large or small, but whether the upper management actually embraces agile. As I said, you cannot implement it against upper management.
    – nvoigt
    Jun 28, 2016 at 9:55

4 Answers 4


Enforce the Roles of Scrum

In Scrum, the Product Owner owns the Product Backlog but is not the "boss" of the team. He is, in fact, intended to be a collaborative peer of of Scrum Master and the Development Team.

The Product Owner cannot assign work to the team. The team selects Product Backlog Items to accept into the Sprint based on projected team capacity (e.g. velocity) and negotiation with the Product Owner during Sprint Planning. The Product Owner may need to be reminded of the fact that he controls the contents of the Product Backlog and their priorities, but he does not get to set the team's pace or dictate implementation details.

While it is often desirable to have a Product Owner invest more time in the team, and to be available to the team outside of formal ceremonies to answer questions and collaborate with the rest of the Scrum Team, in this case you may want to use your Scrum Master role of "process referee" to bar him from access to the Development Team outside of formal ceremonies. It's up to you whether you do so quietly on the side, or publicly during the Sprint Retrospective.

If the Product Owner refuses to obey the rules of Scrum, or to follow the roles appropriately, then you must escalate to his line management. It is then up to them to discipline him, reform him, or replace him.

If they won't do any of those things, then you're doing the right thing by looking for another job.

  • 1
    Can't escalate to mgmt when PO is the CEO...
    – RubberDuck
    Jun 27, 2016 at 22:23
  • 4
    @RubberDuck Of course you can. A CEO reports to a Board of Directors. Don't think small or constrain your options when looking for a solution.
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Jun 28, 2016 at 14:18

I think there are 2 issues here.

One is which method of Project Management the company should use. This should be decided upon, but it should be clear that a defined method needs to be used, and not the let's get it done already approach. You can discuss this with your CEO and come to some kind of agreement. You may have to compromise a bit.

The second issue is one of people management. I don't think you have to be the barrier between the CEO and the workers (even though a PjM usually does just that). I suggest you discuss it with him make it clear that everybody is working towards the same goal - and that some people work more efficiently at 8 hours/day and others are more efficient at 11 hours/day. Forcing people to work against their prime efficiency level will produce less output, not more.

Decide on goals and prove to him that the team is meeting the goals.


My two cents input.

His behaviour shows lack of trust. May be because

  1. Team is underperforming and not serious about achieving targets.
  2. Team is not capable enough to deliver what is required.

If You are satisfied that team is doing well within the given circumstances/resources then do discuss with him with concrete metrics supporting your point of view and if if still he continues the micromanagement then You may go to management with statistics proving your point of view.

Secondly You can talk to management about his over-stepping and how it is demoralising for the team.


You are in a difficult position, my heart goes out.

In this scenario, I would ask the CEO if there are specific requirements that he is asking you to apply to the project. If he is insisting upon a 60-hour work week, that gets into legal territory that I can't advise on - I would talk to a lawyer.

Since he is insisting on a waterfall approach, if I were you, I would begin working on a waterfall approach.

With that said, however, in my experience, I have found that entrenched, stubborn CEOs do not respond well to suggestions from their own staff - but I have found them to be much more open to ideas that come from a 3rd party.

If you can find a way to get your CEO to either attend an agile conference or workshop, or allow a consultant to come in and review your current methodologies, then I think you will likely find him more open to the idea.

Control-oriented CEOs tend to care more about exerting their dominance than improving their businesses, but sometimes they are more willing to listen to people that they do not think they need to control.

Good luck!

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