First published on Scrum Alliance Community Articles on 2nd Feb 2017.
During my 7+ years as a Scrum Master, I’ve worked with a number of different Product Owners. As I look back over them all, I notice how I considered most of them to be more than just colleagues. They became friends. How lucky I was to have been working with friends. But is this coincidence? On reflection, it strikes me what an important partnership the Scrum Master and Product Owner must form. The level that our relationship reached was merely indicative of the need to work so closely together with each other and the investment that we both made in this relationship.
The Scrum Master (SM) and Product Owner (PO) fulfill two key roles for the team. The SM nurtures the team and helps them to grow and become independent. The PO gives guidance to the team on the purpose and value of what they are doing. With this input from the two of them together, the team has the #support and guidance they need to apply their skills appropriately, produce positive results and to develop as individuals and as a group. I’ve seen the two roles aptly described as “leadership partners”. To this end, then, the SM and PO need a solid, supportive relationship and a united intent for the team. How do they achieve this?
The PO and SM must have open and honest interactions. They need to have regular conversations about their concerns for the team. They need a shared view on progress, process and the needs of the team. They need to be regularly available to each other, as much as to the other members of the team.
The PO shares the vision and strategy for the product whereas the SM promotes the vision and strategy for the team. Without both of these, the team will not be effective and therefore these “leadership partners” must share their respective visions and encourage each other in the support of the team achieving its goals.
The PO and SM must understand, respect and value the unique contribution that each makes to the team. They must know the purpose and value of each other’s role and understand the unique way in which they deliver this. They must get to know each other and the strengths and weaknesses that each has. They should celebrate each other’s capabilities and show appreciation for each other on a regular and ongoing basis.
The PO and SM must support each other. They need to recognise when the other needs help or encouragement and they need to challenge each other to be even better and to grow in their respective roles. The Scrum Guide describes the “Scrum Master Service to the Product Owner”. Indeed, the SM supports the PO and supports the Team but nowhere does it describe who is supporting the SM! The SM needs support and encouragement too. The PO should reciprocate the support that the SM role offers to them so there is a triangular support network available across all the members of the team.
For two individuals working in such close and supportive collaboration it’s not surprising that this relationship can lead to a true and valuable partnership on which the team can rely and from which the team can truly benefit.