P.O. Surprised in the Review? Now what?

I often hear the following statement in my classes: “At the Sprint Review meeting, the Product Owner accepts or rejects the product increment developed by the team during the Sprint.”

Every time I hear this, I stop what we’re doing and start a good conversation with the students to set everything straight.

Having worked as Product Owner since 2008, I find it very odd that this sentence is still repeated here and there, as if the team’s role in the Sprint Review meeting were to obtain Approval by the Product Owner for the items developed. This way of thinking also reveals other dysfunctions that are usually concealed within the team.

Let’s break it down:

  • To begin with, we must keep in mind that a “proper” P.O. sits with the team during the Sprint. But if the P.O. is there working with the team, why in the world would this person decide to take a look at what the team has produced only at the Sprint Review? Why wouldn’t the P.O. take advantage of being close to the team and collaborate during the Sprint to see how things are going, give the team a hand and promote slight course adjustments? But remember: the P.O. is there to collaborate! Not to pressure, demand, change everything, and be bossy and nitpicky.
  • Another point is the Definition of Done (DoD), an agreement between the Development Team members and the Product Owner about what “ready” means. If you have a well-constructed DoD that resulted from a great deal of conversation involving everyone, it should be enough for the Development Team to say that something is ready. But then why would the Product Owner have to double check? It doesn’t make any sense! And there’s more: if the Definition of Done is not good enough, how about using the Retrospective for inspection and adaptation?
  • And the final point: at the Sprint Review, the Product Owner invites the most important/relevant stakeholders to provide visibility on the progress of the work and, above all, to collect their feedback (see “Approval or Feedback?“). But then, why would the team wait for the client to show up at the end and say that something is not good? Wouldn’t it have been much better to make adjustments during the development and deliver even greater value at the Review?

The fact is that Product Owners who only show up at the Sprint Review and then criticize the Team’s work in front of the client only demonstrate that they didn’t do their job well during the Sprint. So, my P.O. friend, if you want to find out whether you’re doing your job well or not, I suggest a quick test: if you are at a Sprint Review and what is being presented by the Team surprises you… Bingo! You are an absent Product Owner, and this could generate various dysfunctions that will end up causing problems for everyone.

To wrap up, I want to make this very clear: yes, the Product Owner is part of the Team. A real Product Owner sits together with the Team, has lunch together with them, celebrates and suffers together with them, and of course, participates in the Retrospective, since continuous improvement applies to the whole Scrum Team, not only to the Development Team, contrary to what many people preach out there. But hey! That is a topic for another post!


Foto de Marcos Garrido
Marcos Garrido

Marcos Garrido, co-founder at Knowledge21, has more than two decades of experience in software development and product management, working full time with Agile Teams since 2008. As a guest MBA professor at the Business School of the Catholic University, he has been teaching the Agile minds...


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