Those who have never been a Product Owner may not understand just how challenging a position it really is. While I thought I understood this, for the past year I have worked closely with many Product Owners and I am beginning to sense all that is required and asked of them.
It can be an exciting position but also one that is stressful, pressure-packed, and demanding. The Product Owner is responsible for creating a compelling vision for their product and is expected to deliver tangible business results. They are the CEO of their product.
I do believe there is another role on the team who is in a unique position to be of assistance to the Product Owner – the Scrum Master. They are close enough to observe and respond when needed and neutral enough to take necessary steps to ease some of the stress and pressure.
It will be impossible for a Scrum Master alone to keep a Product Owner completely happy at all times but there are certainly things a Scrum Master can do to become a partner and assist them. Here are a few ways to do this:
Be a trusted confidant. Allow the Product Owner to vent and share frustration when needed. Listen attentively and mentor when necessary. Ideally, you are sitting close by the Product Owner every day and begin to get a sense of when stress levels are getting high. Over time, you will begin to recognize when a Product Owner may be need to step out and take a walk around the block or head out for a coffee break.
Assist with time management. If your Product Owner is struggling with their calendar and becoming overwhelmed with how much is on their plate, perhaps you can help them out with organization, prioritization, and time management. The Product Owner may be juggling too many thing and you can work with them to focus on what’s important now. At the very least, the Scrum Master can find ways to serve the Product Owner in small ways to make their day easier to manage.
Provide air cover. People will be constantly swooping in to unload suggestions, ideas, and requests to the Product Owner. Setup a process or firewall to capture these requests and setup a time to review them all at one time with the Product Owner.
Ensure ground support. Coach the team to be in flow and well-functioning. Nothing will frustrate a product owner more than a struggling, dysfunctional, or unproductive team. The product vision becomes real through the team and the team is responsible for delivering.
Relentlessly remove impediments. Along with providing ground support, make sure the team has a clear runway to deliver frequently. If something is in the way, be dedicated to finding resolution.