In my experience, the majority of product owners have received no formal training as a product owner and for the most part, they continue to operate exactly as they did before becoming a product owner within the organisation.
It doesn’t make them bad people, it just means that they don’t generally understand the role of a scrum master nor do they have a frame of reference for what a great scrum master is.
Therefore, you are going to have to demonstrate why a scrum master is a critical role within the scrum team and you are going to have to consistently demonstrate, over time, why your contribution leads to the development of products and features that truly delight customers.
Educate the product owner
As a starting point, you are going to have to educate the product owner. You must invest your time and effort in helping them to understand the scrum framework and why it is such a powerful vehicle for creating products and services that truly delight customers.
In many instances, you are going to need to educate them on the role of a product owner and show them how the product owner role integrates into the scrum team. You may even need to coach them in how to use product owner tools and resources, and how to play a leading role in helping the development team understand the product vision and pursue valuable goals for the product.
Understand that there is no real equivalent to a scrum master in a traditional organisation.
The scrum master isn’t responsible for delivery of the product nor are they directly contributing to its construction and release. In theory, the scrum master doesn’t physically DO anything on a day-to-day basis that would be measurable in terms of delivery or quality.
The scrum master acts as a coach and facilitator that works to create an environment where the team can thrive. They also play an active role in removing impediments to progress within the scrum team as well as within the broader organisation.
Whilst their role is critical to success, it isn’t measurable or definable in the same way as a developer or product owner.
You need to invest the time and effort to help them understand why your role is so important and through your daily actions and contribution, earn their respect and trust.
A scrum master fits a leadership role, and their contribution is easier to define in the context of modern business management and leadership practices.
Help the product owner become a better product owner
As I mentioned before, many product owners don’t have any formal training in their role nor do they have a strong understanding of how their actions, intentions, and directions influence the team.
As a scrum master, you need to help the product owner create a strong vision for the product and articulate that vision to the team in an inspiring and creative way.
The team need to buy into the vision and having a clear vision articulated helps the developers tap into their creativity and expertise to build powerful products and features as well as solve compelling problems that will delight customers.
The scrum master will also need to introduce new ideas, tools, resources, and frameworks that help the product owner build and nurture a very strong product backlog.
Things like business model canvas to help the team understand the business context of the product and feature goals, and value proposition canvas so that the team can understand what jobs the customer is trying to achieve and why those jobs are valuable to customers.
There are a host of product development tools, frameworks, canvases, etc. that can help a product owner capture and articulate value for the customer and product stakeholders. Your job is to help them use these tools to enhance visibility and ensure the team are clear on the why and the what of product development.
How they achieve those goals are on the product development team, not the product owner, so you don’t need to focus on how. Just why and what.
A scrum master can also play a critical role in facilitating strong backlog refinement meetings which allow the product owner and development team to connect around the issues that most matter to the team.
You will also be helping with user story mapping and helping the product owner to write strong user stories that provide the development team with the granular detail and context they need to better understand the problem that is being solved and why it is important to the customer and product owner.
Be a coach
Human nature often leads to poor working habits and processes. As a scrum master, it is your job to continuously strive to find a way of working that unleashes people’s creativity and passion.
It your job to hold up a mirror to the product owner and development team that helps them to reflect on what they are doing and why they are doing it.
It is your job to help the team have creative and productive discussions that lead to continuous improvement. Sometimes, it involves conflict management and helping the team through the process of difficult discussions and resolving conflict within the team.
Your goal is to help the team become autonomous. To become a strong team who are capable of solving problems and dilemmas on their own. To become a strong team that are capable of removing impediments and obstacles to progress.
You want to make sure that you are asking questions and inviting curiosity into the product development process. Helping the team to think deeply about what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how they can do it better next time.
Like sporting coaches that help their clients become elite level athletes and teams, it is your job as a scrum master to create environments where people can truly excel. It is your job to help the team become the most effective team they can be.
If you do those things consistently, you are going to earn the respect of your product owner as well as the development team, and your actions will demonstrate your value to the team consistently.
If you like the idea of becoming a scrum master, visit our Certified Scrum Master course page.
If you are already a scrum master and want to upskill, visit our Advanced Certified Scrum Master course page.
If you have several years’ experience as a scrum master and want to both validate and certify your professional skills, visit our Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master course page.
If you like the idea of mentored and coach-driven skills development, visit our Agile Coach Academy page.
If you have identified coaching as an important skill to develop, visit our on-demand Introduction to coaching course page.
For more information on John McFadyen, visit https://www.johnmcfadyen.com