Is the Product Owner really the most difficult role in Scrum?

Is the Product Owner really the most difficult role in Scrum?

Many say that the P.O. is the most difficult role in Scrum. There was a time when our team may have even agreed with that statement. As we guide clients changing the way they do work using Scrum and talk with graduates of our classes, we realize something. The Product Owner role isn’t the most difficult role in Scrum.

It is the most misunderstood role in Scrum.

Sprint Retrospective: Process Improvement not a Report for Management

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A common impediment we hear in #CSM classes is whether to share the actions and outcomes from the Sprint Retrospective outside of the Scrum Team (product owner, scrum master, development team). When we ask for more clarification students make comments such as “the Senior Leaders want to know that we’re really working” or “Senior Leadership wants to know that we are improving” and also “Senior Leadership wants to make sure we’re doing work”.

 A great question for the Scrum Master to ask those Senior Leaders is “What problem are we trying to solve by sharing Sprint Retrospective actions and outcomes?”. It may also be helpful to ask those same leaders what information they need and take advantage of that teachable moment to let them know the appropriate place to get product information such as from Information Radiators and Task Boards. Are the leaders regularly attending the Sprint Reviews to see working product and to get current information on the product?  If they are not attending, why is this the case? And most importantly, do leaders understand that the Product Owner is the one to go to for information on the state of the product.

 Principle #5 in the Agile Manifest states: Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.

 To be most effective, there needs to be psychological safety in the Sprint Retrospective. How likely is that to occur if the Scrum Team learns that the Scrum Master publishes a report or meeting minutes of what gets discussed to senior leadership? If trust is the issue the Scrum Master may have some work to do with leaders and the development team to build trust.

 The intent of a Sprint Retrospective is for the Scrum Team to agree on 1, no more than 2, process improvements within their control to implement in the upcoming Sprint. It's up to the PO if it's for them to enact or a member of the team to champion the improvement if it’s for the development team. There's no "minutes" or log or output or any of that because it's a Sprint Retro.  The 1 item is implemented.  If it’s really necessary to have a reminder something can be put on the Task Board for the upcoming Sprint.

 If the Scrum Team gets to the next retro and determines that the process improvement wasn't really helpful, they can inspect and adapt and try something else.  If it had the desired effect, it can be determined to keep the process improvement permanently and move on to brainstorming another improvement that's relevant for that current Sprint.

 If you’d like to learn more about effective Scrum and are in the #Houston area, join us for our #GuaranteedtoRun #CSM course. To register click here: CSM Jan 28-29 Houston, TX

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Looking ahead to 2019!

Welcome 2019!

CoLeadTeam remains thankful for 2018 and the clients and students who trust us as guides in business agility. But it’s time to ring in the new year and bring to fruition the new things our team has been working on!


Announcing West End Conference Center:

West End Conference Center will not only be home to CoLeadTeam classes, but will also host a wide variety of workshops and programs from successful authors such as Dr. Harvey Robbins and Michael Nir.

In addition to having training rooms available for rent, West End Conference Center features individual Agile and Scrum coaching, “drop in” work space for individuals and small groups to rent. We’re up and running temporarily at 1550 Utica Ave South, Suite 120 in St. Louis Park. Our new home will be in the same set of towers at 1600 Utica Ave South, Suite 100 in St. Louis Park.

Stay tuned to the West End Conference Center site for grand opening details:

Ignite Agility™ Meetup:

CoLeadTeam’s Ignite Agility™ program provides clients a way to hit the ground running with their Agile and Scrum adoptions. We observe lots of inspired students and graduates become igniters of agility so why limit Ignite Agility™ to adoption kick starts?

In Q1 2019, the West End Conference Center will be home to the Ignite Agility™ Meetup. The meetup will provide individuals a way to network and support others in the community.

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To join the conversation and get information about events as they unfold, stay tuned to:

Scrum Day MN 2019:

Scrum Day MN continues to provide our community an opportunity to learn, network and support one another in the Agile and Scrum communities with proceeds benefiting a local charity. It has outgrown its home! It will still be right here in Minnesota but will relocate in 2019 to the Earle Brown Heritage Center.

Save the date – October 2, 2019.

Stay tuned to the Scrum Day site for details as they unfold:

Continued Advanced Agile and Scrum Training:

CoLeadTeam continues to bring advanced Agile and Scrum training to the MN Agile community. Stay tuned to our LinkedIn, Facebook page or website for information on new advanced offerings. In the meantime, check out these opportunities.

We're so excited for everything 2019 has in store- hope to have you tag along with us!

As a Beginning Scrum Master- I don't just take notes...

Scrum, Daily Scrum, Refinement, Sprint Review, Sprint Retrospective, Sprint, Stand Up, Kanban, Lean, Black Belt..

The list goes on and on. When I started as a ScrumMaster it felt like my head was spinning between the technology terms like “on-prem”, Java and lambdas. Jumping from event management into the world of Scrum is an adventure that continues to teach me new words and ways of work. So let’s break down some of the things that can happen as a beginning ScrumMaster.

You get asked to take notes and set up meetings: This was my first encounter in the Scrum-world. I readily stepped up, excited to learn about making positive change and delighting the customers. Then I quickly become bored and wanted more voice in the conversations going on. Why was that? Just an incorrect role? Misalignment of responsibilities? Did I misunderstand the Certified ScrumMaster class I went to?  

None of the above. As it turns out, a ScrumMaster is not supposed to take notes or set up meetings. Yes, they can help in that way, but so can anyone on the team. As a ScrumMaster, I’ve found that my actual responsibilities include watching and listening for that moment in conversations when things dive too deep, go off-topic or everyone seems to be losing interest. They also include asking the hard questions, like why are we doing this in the first place? What problem are we trying to solve?

In the Daily Scrum or Stand Up in particular, this involves asking questions like, “Are we going to complete the work we initially committed to? If no, why not? Should we really be bringing in different work? Does the Product Owner know that we won’t make our commitment? Why aren’t we swarming to get the work done together, as a team?”

Being a ScrumMaster doesn’t automatically make anyone an expert, specialist or even good at facilitation, strategy or communication. This looks different for each person and each company. However, becoming a ScrumMaster has allowed me to see why facilitation isn’t about taking notes and scheduling meetings. Or how strategy isn’t just high-level executive work, but something that teams need to use in every day development. It has also shown me that communication is so important when it comes to persuading a team to take a risk.

Have you ever thought about how one role can be armchair psychologist and courageous proponent of change at the same time? The Certified ScrumMaster class explains how our interactions directly impact the work being done for our organizations. It teaches us that first we need to trust ourselves, our teams and our organizations and the ScrumMaster is a key part of that.

If you are interested in learning more, click here to connect with our team or see the upcoming classes on the calendar.  

  As a ScrumMaster I gotta do what????? (Self-Awareness)


Every ScrumMaster must have basic skills in facilitation, coaching, mentoring, teaching, conflict resolution and, above all else, self-awareness.   The responsibility for a good ScrumMaster to become a great ScrumMaster is to build up these basic skills with practice and time. 

 This is a series of blogs.  Each blog will take a look at a particular skill necessary for a ScrumMaster to progress in their role from basic to experienced ScrumMaster. 

ScrumMasters must have self-awareness

"There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one's self.”

- Benjamin Franklin

Know thy self:

As a ScrumMaster that has the responsibility of facilitating, coaching, mentoring and teaching you must be aware of what you bring and do not bring into each engagement you have with individuals, teams and outside of the teams – the organization.  How you think, what your values and assumptions are, may bias your service to others.  In The Skilled Facilitator by Roger Schwarz, Schwarz stresses the need to understand your mindset (your values and opinions).  In order to effectively serve as a ScrumMaster, you need to evaluate your core assumptions and fundamental beliefs.  Not so that you can change them or persuade others to join you in your mindset.  Do this so that you can better prepare to serve as a facilitator, coach, mentor or teacher.  In order to do this you will need to take the time to explore and reflect on who you are as person and as a ScrumMaster. Yes, self-reflection and introspection!  Critical activities for growth and development. There are thousands of tools and sources to take on these critical activities – available at your fingertips, just Google it! 

In additional to what you may find on the Internet, consider behavior assessments like Strengths Finder, DISC or Myers-Briggs.  Also, talk with friends and colleagues.  Ask them for input on your approach, delivery and behavior in different settings. 

And, remember, you cannot help others if you have not helped yourself first.  Put your oxygen mask on before assisting others!

Prepare and be Aware: 

Once you have taken the time to know yourself better you can focus on preparing for specific session you will engage in as a ScrumMaster.  As you prepare to step into each interaction, be aware of who you are in that moment.  What is happening or just happened that may alter your mindset?  Did you just have an uplifting call from a colleague?  Did you just read an email from a client ranting about poor service?  Was it an uber struggle to get the kids out the door this morning?  These moments have the potential to alter your abilities as a coach, facilitator, teacher or mentor.  Do a self-check before you engage - have you level set?

Don’t get hooked: 

We have all had moments when we are caught off-guard by what was said by others.  As the ScrumMaster, an individual may have touch on a sensitive area for you.  A word, phrase or opinion may catch you and take you to a place of judgement and opinions. This will hinder your ability to actively listen.  What ‘in the moment’ techniques do you have prepared?  Relaxation, breathing, compartments. If you become overly distracted, suggest a break so that you can take care of yourself. 

It’s not personal: 

As a ScrumMaster working to improve your skills, you can at times find yourself trapped in self-analysis.  At times you may allow emotions such as;  judging, defending and annoyance to creep into a session or engagement.  Stop!  Be in the moment with the individual or group.  Promise yourself that you will inspect after the event – and keep your promise to yourself!

If you would like to learn more about the ScrumMaster role, please join us at our next Certified ScrumMaster class. Details here.