If you are a Product Owner (PO), you are essentially the owner of the product and most POs I come across know what that entails. However, I also meet POs who determine during the Sprint which items from the Sprint Backlog the Development Team should work on, or what the solution should be, or even perform code reviews and evaluate work this way. Such Product Owners undoubtedly mean well; they feel involved and responsible for the product, they want to satisfy the customer and deliver a good product.

But I wonder if the Product Owner realizes what the effect of this behavior is on the Developers in the Scrum Team. Does the PO help them by providing solutions? Does the PO help the team by determining which items the team should pick up in the Sprint? Does the PO realize what the effect is on the team’s ability of self-managing?

People who have children teach their kids to live their life on their own. You cannot always stay a nurturing parent. A big part of growingup is that children are able to practise and experiment. Eating with a spoon, tying their shoes, getting dressed, riding a bicycle, etc. As a parent you give the child the time and space it needs to learn, even if it fails sometimes. The same counts for older people. Everyone who tries something new makes mistakes. Trial and error is a part of life. But along te way you will become better and better at it. This is also a part of self-management; the team takes decisions, does experiments, learns from it and becomes better and better.

If the Product Owner intervenes and/or there is a culture of blame and there is no room for experiments and mistakes, then there is no room for trust to emerge. And the absence of trust will result in less transparency, fewer (or no) improvements, lower quality of work, and less (or no) value delivered.

So, if you are a Product Owner and you want the team to be self-managing, give them some space. Make sure the Developers of the Scrum Team understand the goal you want to achieve in the next Sprint (and why) and discuss with them which Product Backlog items are needed for that. And let the Developers figure out how to do the work and how to achieve the goal. And leave it to the Scrum Master to guide the team through the process.

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