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Why should the PO attend the Daily Scrum?

by Joe Little, 22 April 2013 | The Agile Blogosphere

This content is syndicated from LeanAgileTraining by Joe Little. To view the original post in full, click here.

Umm. Good question.  We partly discussed this in an earlier post.

First, the Scrum Guide (2011) does not require that the PO attend the Daily Scrum.  If you asked Jeff Sutherland is normal preference though, he would say it is probably better if the PO attended regularly.

OK, so why?

Well, first, the Team needs to know it is a Team. And the PO is part of the Team. Yes, he is different than the others. Much like a hockey goalie is different than the other skaters.  But still part of the Team.

Often the key problem is: how to get the Business Value and the detailed requirements into the Team?  It is not going perfectly yet. This is very often our biggest problem.  And it is a very hard problem. There are several ‘laws’ of software development that speak to this problem.

And the PO is key to its solution.

So, we can say that the PO comes to the Daily Scrum to hear about progress (or lack thereof).  We must be careful saying it that way. The PO has a kind of leadership role, it is true. But he is not the ‘boss’ that the Team ‘reports’ to. Or, at least, this is not the approach we want in Scrum.

We want the whole Team, including the PO to be in the same boat.  Maybe the PO is like George Washington in that famous picture, but everyone is doing things to ‘manage’ the boat toward success. And they are all ‘in this together’.

The PO could come to ‘comment’ on Team progress. Again, careful.  What do you mean by comment?  So, if the Team has a question that the PO can answer, certainly in or just after the Daily Scrum, he will ‘comment’ or answer.  But the idea is not that he gets to, in a top boss kind of way, stand above the Team and critique ‘the other guys’ (the Team).  Again, in Scrum the PO is part of the Team. They win or lose together.

Maybe the PO tells the Team the tasks they will do?  NO!  Well, even that, in a different way, we must be careful how we say it.  So, at what Scrum defines as the Task level, no the PO as such would never define and ‘force’ the tasks on the Team. In part it is because we assume the PO is normally a business person, and would not even know which tasks need doing. In part, we want the full Team to self-organize, and define their own tasks.

But, from a certain point of view, each PBI (product backlog item or story) represents work, and in a sense represents a ‘task’ for the Team. In that way, yes the PO is the person who does the final ordering of the Product Backlog. So, if the Team gets all the PBIs done that they ‘committed to’, then the PO can ‘give’ them the next PBI to work on in the Sprint.

The PO could come to determine if the Team needs help.  Umm, again, careful how you say it.  Yes, the PO could come to hear all the answers to the 3 questions. And, if something comes up where the PO could help, and that help can be provided quickly, then that could happen in the Daily Scrum. But often the discussion could be too long (bust the 15 minute time box), so the PO may only be able to identify that help is needed, and then provide the help after the Daily Scrum.

Now, who actually identifies that the help is needed? Well, it could be anyone, so the best way to say it is that the Team (including of course the PO) identifies that help is needed.  From the PO. But specifically, it can be the PO who discovers first that help is needed on a given story.

One final reason for today (for why the PO attends the Daily Scrum). The PO should give his own answers to the 3 questions. Why?  In part because he is a Team member (meaning, he is a member of the Scrum Team, not that he is doing ‘Team role’ work). By reporting to the Team, he and everyone starts to think of him more as a Team member.  By reporting to the Team, over time everyone starts to see better how integral his work is to Team success.  Yes, the PO’s work is different. Yes, his work is not as tied to the current Sprint as it is for the Implementers. But still, the whole Team needs to start to understand better how all the work is connected. (And if some is not usefully connected….well, maybe fix that.)

Could we imagine some ‘mis-understandings’ between business and technology at the beginning that could lead to some ‘awkward’ conversations?  Yes! And this is good!  Because now we as a Team will be addressing real, hard, difficult issues.

Could this conflict or tensions get out of hand?  Yes. And the SM must manage the conflict. Making it more useful rather than ‘just conflict’.

***

OK, that’s what I think. What do you think?

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