Many teams grapple with the notion of fully accepting a product owner as the final decision maker. One of the most significant barriers is the lack of respect from senior individuals or other stakeholders. It’s not uncommon for these individuals to agree with the product owner in private settings, only to voice disagreements in larger, more public forums. Such actions not only undermine the product owner’s authority but also erode the trust developers place in them.
A recent experience highlighted a scenario where a product owner, after extensive collaboration with a key stakeholder, faced stark opposition during a Sprint planning session. Such instances, where product owners are undermined in team forums, diminish their credibility. If developers witness this undermining, they may feel the need to double-check decisions with other stakeholders, further diluting the product owner’s authority.
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The Scrum Guide emphasises that everyone in the organisation should respect the product owner’s decisions. If senior management feels a product owner isn’t making the right choices, the solution isn’t to undermine them but to consider if they are the right fit for the role.
A common root of this undermining stems from stakeholders’ reluctance to be accountable for their decisions. This lack of accountability cascades down, leaving neither leadership nor the product owner in a position to take charge. Developers, witnessing this lack of credibility, find it challenging to place trust in the product owner’s decisions.
In essence, the primary barrier preventing developers from accepting the product owner as the final decision-maker boils down to accountability. Without clear lines of responsibility and a culture that respects the product owner’s authority, teams will continue to face this challenge.
NKDAgility can help!
If you find it hard to establish clear lines of accountability or struggle to foster a culture of respect for product ownership, my team at NKDAgility can assist. Addressing these issues promptly is crucial for the effectiveness of your value delivery.