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Active Participation of Product Owners in Sprint Retrospective

by Savita Pahuja on Jun 21, 2014 |

Sprint retrospective is an opportunity for product owners to learn, improve and create good relationship with development team. Roman Pichler, owner of Pichler Consulting and author of book “Agile Product Management with Scrum”, supports the participation of product owner in sprint retrospective, in his recent blog.

As the product owner, you are a member of the Scrum team, which also includes the development team and the ScrumMaster. While you are in charge of the product, you rely on the collaboration of the other Scrum team members to create a successful software product. If you don’t attend the retrospective as the product owner, you waste the opportunity to strengthen the relationship and to improve the collaboration with them.

Roman says that product owners should attend sprint retrospective as active participants. Product owners can use the retrospective to get feedback on their work and discuss the issues with the team where the improvement is expected.

Roman mentioned some questions that can be explored by product owner in sprint retrospective:

  • Do you spend enough time with the development team? Are you available to answer questions or provide feedback quickly enough? Do you provide the right level of feedback and guidance in the right way?
  • Is the communication between the team and you open, honest, and trustful?
  • Does the team know how the users employ the product?
  • Are the team members happy with their involvement in analyzing user feedback and data, changing the product backlog, and getting stories ready for the sprint? Do you get enough support from the team to “groom” the backlog?
  • Are the team members aware of the big picture – the overall vision, the product strategy, and the product roadmap? Do you get enough of the team members’ time to help you with product planning and product road mapping?

Roman says that collaboration of product owner with team is not sufficient. Product owners also need strong relationship with marketing, sales, customer service and finance to make the product a success.

A great way to review and improve the collaboration with your partners from marketing, sales and so forth is to invite them to the retrospective on a regular basis. Depending on how closely you collaborate, this may range from once per month to once per major release. A joint retrospective will help you develop closer and more trustful relationships help smooth the launch of new product versions, and improve selling and servicing the product.

Here are some questions that product owner may want to explore in an extended retrospective, mentioned by Roman:

  • Are the partners from marketing, sales etc. involved enough in the product planning and roadmapping activities?
  • Do they regularly participate in the sprint review meetings? Are the review meetings beneficial for them? Do they understand the project progress?
  • Do they receive the information necessary to carry out their work in a timely manner, for instance, to prepare the marketing campaign and to compile the sales collateral?
  • Do you get enough data and support from the partners, for instance, regular updates on the sales figures and the market feedback you require?

Mark Levison, founder and consultant at Agile Pain Relief Consulting expressed his views on Roman’s thoughts. He said to remind product owners to be careful when their relationship with the team is new. There is a balancing act to be played when they are present at the retrospective.

Mark likes having his product owners involvement in the retrospective as long as they remember that the development team own how to achieve the goals the product owner sets out.

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Retro IS with Scrum Team which IS the Dev.Team+PO+SM! by Hans-Peter Korn

This: "Roman Pichler supports the participation of product owner in sprint retrospective" is not "new" - it is a (but one of the often unrespected) "rule" of Scrum since the beginning.

In the Scrum Guide you can read:

"The Scrum Team consists of a Product Owner, the Development Team, and a Scrum Master."
"The Sprint Retrospective is an opportunity for the Scrum Team to inspect itself and create a plan for improvements to be enacted during the next Sprint."

If the PO is not attending the retro - than it is not Scrum:
"Scrum’s roles, artifacts, events, and rules are immutable and although implementing only parts of Scrum is possible, the result is not Scrum."

Involve the product owner, maybe even customers by Ben Linders

Nice write-up Savita!

I agree that it could be useful to invite the product owner and maybe even some customers/users from the sprint review/demo to the retrospective to deal with issues related to the backlog, sprint planning, or interaction with users (see Retrospective Benefits: Actions by the Team). Such issues most often need actions from the development team *and* from the product owner to effectively address them.

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