2

I am a ScrumMaster for a team of 7 devs/qa's.

I am struggling to coach my PO / get through to my PO. On one hand he is very keen to be a PO and work in the way a PO works but he just doesn't really get that his behaviours are not helping the team become more autonomous and self-managing.

These are the behaviours which I believe is hurting the team:

  • Relentless interruptions during the day. He is a very extroverted lovely outgoing guy, but all day he is coming up to developers just to say how are you doing all very positive, but very disrupting
  • Relentless asking for updates. When will this be done, when will this finish
  • Joining standup's and always talking during the stand-up's, always chipping in
  • Getting involved in every facet of the team, from handovers when team members leaves, solution design, QA approach you name it everything
  • Does not write acceptance criteria, when people ask for requirements, he says don't worry about the requirements. QA's ask for requirements, but he says not to worry. The requirements are in his head and he likes to verbalise them not capture them in jira.
  • Directing the team, managing the team, micromanaging the team
  • He gets very aggressive if he is not allowed to do this

In my career I would say he is the furthest away from being a Product Manager and more like a command and control manager.

What I have tried: + 1-on-1's, explaining the role and coaching + Using retrospectives which cause the team to call out the lack of acceptance criteria + Workshops getting the team and PO to understand the PO, SM and Team's roles.

Nothing seems to work

  • How does the PO react to these various attempts to help them get better at it? – Erik Jul 19 '18 at 11:00
  • Have people on the Development Team spoken to him to explain that the interruptions don't help with work or that the lack of requirements and acceptance criteria make design, development, and testing harder? – Thomas Owens Jul 19 '18 at 11:44
  • Have you told him on the spot when he does something he's not supposed to do? For example, have you cut him off in daily standups and explained that this is a meeting for the team and he is a silent guest? – nvoigt Jul 19 '18 at 11:46
  • He has made some attempt to observe in stand-ups, but then he keeps quiet until end of standup and then says right now its my turn to talk and asks for updates, directs people for the day etc, essentially has a traditional daily meeting after the standup. The dev team are quite passive towards him, don't speak up just in the retro about the acceptance criteria or they come to me. I have cut him off but generally his view is that the team don't deliver fast enough and are not self-managing so he has to step in to get things moving. I have explained to them they cannot grow like this. – user32613 Jul 19 '18 at 12:02
  • When he directs people for the day, does he try to change what was decided just minutes earlier? Because after the daily standup is over, everybody should already have a full day planned out. – nvoigt Jul 19 '18 at 12:14
5

Here are some suggestions.

Using retrospectives which cause the team to call out the lack of acceptance criteria

The behaviours you have mentioned are all valid topics for retrospectives, not just the lack of acceptance criteria.

Also, the idea of retrospectives is not just to raise issues, but also to monitor progress towards their resolution. If the team takes actions away from a retro then it is often a good idea to review them at the next retrospective. This way it becomes obvious if progress is not being made.

What I have tried: + 1-on-1's, explaining the role and coaching

Don't just coach the Product Owner, also look to coach the team. Teach them that it is OK to push back on the Product Owner and to raise their concerns at retrospectives. It is not the Scrum Master's responsibility to solve all the problems of the team but it is the role of the Scrum Master to facilitate resolution.

It is likely that this situation will only be resolved with the whole team pulling together.

Relentless asking for updates. When will this be done, when will this finish

This behaviour and others mentioned has an impact on the output and effectiveness of the team. Report it as a part of your Sprint Reviews. For example:

In Sprint 7 we delivered lots of good value, but our effectiveness was reduced by constant interruptions of the team. It is likely that the team's output would be increased if we could improve this situation.

Keep the tone positive and emphasise that you just want to improve the team's performance.

  • As an outgoing, extrovert individual I can sympathise with this approach. It might be unpopular but it is also on introverts to be stronger. If you want alone time say so. Physically speak up and say "not now". I made it clear to my team to tell me go away. Everyone is an adult; they can handle it. – Venture2099 Jul 19 '18 at 15:21
3

I have two comments:

  • Address one/two issues at a time (be incremental). This will require all your negotiation power! I suggest you to create a prioritisation list ordered on what you think it will be easier for him to let go and address each list one or two every time. I would start with what it's easier for him, because as soon as you prove your point, you'll create trust and he'll be able to budge on other more difficult things

  • What I have tried: + 1-on-1's, explaining the role and coaching + Using retrospectives which cause the team to call out the lack of acceptance criteria + Workshops getting the team and PO to understand the PO, SM and Team's roles.

Here you are only exploring why you and your team think what he's doing is "wrong". You also need to also ask him and understand deeply why he thinks that what he's doing is valuable for the team(maybe combine it with one?).

2

Suggestion: pick the dysfunctions that the Development Team considers non-negotiable e.g. I would personally pick interrupting the Daily Scrum and interrupting the Developers during the working day. Then set out to firmly enforce them, while ensuring the dignity of everyone. But make it very transparent e.g. change then venue of the Daily Scrum, get some 'POLICE DO NOT CROSS' tape and delete 'LICE', etc. Make it fun for all.

Note these are impediments. The role of management in Agile is to remove impediments, so ensure you have their support. Aggressive behaviour is completely unacceptable and you should seek specific help on this.

But also come from a place of understanding. Why is the PO behaving this way? If the PO doesn't enjoy safety in their environment, can you help with their impediments?

  • I'm not sure how the PO would react to your tape suggestion (especially since he seems to dislike being told what to do), but it sure is original! – Balala Aug 3 '18 at 17:08
  • 1
    @Balala: yes, I suggest caution and it may not be at all appropriate knowing the person/org in question (which I don't!). However, not wanting to speak out because it might cause offence or cause someone to become angry is clearly a problem for this team and radical-but-fun action might be an ice breaker. – onedaywhen Aug 13 '18 at 10:16

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.