Here at Eleken, a SaaS design agency, we are lucky to work with Product Owners (POs) that come directly from our clients’ companies. It’s natural that they are eager to get regular updates on current progress from the whole product team. In some cases, they hold separate meetings for this purpose, while sometimes they choose to attend the Daily Scrum.
The Daily Scrum is not a place for a PO to receive status updates, however, this event may be valuable for this professional to attend.
But why should the Product Owner attend the Daily Scrum (if they should at all) and what are they supposed to do there?
Before we discuss the role of the Product Owner during the Daily Scrum, we must, first of all, clarify why this event is important in project management.
The purpose of the Daily Scrum
Imagine you have two weeks and six workers to build a fence. Using the “Scrum language” that would be a sprint of two weeks with the sprint goal to build a fence with six developers. To successfully cope with the task and meet a deadline, you’ll have to create a plan and daily distribute the work among team members. Every morning, you’ll meet with your workers and discuss what was already done, what is to be done today, and if someone needs help to progress towards reaching the goal. Such a daily meeting can be translated as a Daily Scrum.
The Daily Scrum, also known as daily stand-up meeting, daily stand-up, or simply daily, is a short (up to 15 minutes) event held every day at the same time for a small development team.
The objective of the Daily Scrum is for the development team to collaborate, plan the work for the day and inspect the progress with the sprint goal. This helps the team to adapt the sprint backlog as necessary, adjust the upcoming work plan, and to identify issues that affect the project progress.
Here’s what Alexandra, our product designer, has to say about the importance of the Daily Scrum based on her experience:
“The developers in one of my recent projects worked in sprints and invited me to attend their daily stand-ups. Since they work as a team, it was important for them to be aware of who is doing what. And I noticed that a great advantage of these daily meetings was the motivation they gave the developers. Everyone wanted to show their progress at the stand-up, and thus they did their best to complete daily tasks in time and successfully.”
The Daily Scrum has no strict structure or techniques needed to be used, so it’s up to the developers to decide how to hold the meeting and what questions to ask. The main thing is to remember the purpose of the daily stand-up — inspect progress toward completing the Sprint Goal and create a solid plan for the day.
It’s also essential to understand that the daily stand-up is NOT a:
- status update meeting. The goal is to help the development team collaborate and see how the work proceeds. Participants shouldn’t report either Scrum Master (SM) or PO about status updates.
- problem-solving meeting. It’s not right to discuss issues and seek possible solutions to those problems during the Daily Scrum. Such discussions are better to hold right after the daily. Remember to keep the event no longer than fifteen minutes.
But what about the Product Owner’s participation in the Daily Scrum? Let’s shed some light on this topic in the next section.
Should the Product Owner attend Daily Scrum?
According to the Scrum Guide, “the Daily Scrum is a 15-minute event for the Developers of the Scrum Team…. If the Product Owner or Scrum Master are actively working on items in the Sprint Backlog, they participate as Developers.”
Based on this extract, we understand that the Daily Scrum Meeting is, first of all, for developers. The Product Owner is neither encouraged nor forbidden to attend dailies, they are just not required to be present unless they are actively working on items in the sprint backlog like developers.
At the same time, the guide says that “the entire Scrum Team is accountable for creating a valuable, useful Increment every Sprint.” and that “Daily Scrums improve communications, identify impediments, promote quick decision-making, and consequently eliminate the need for other meetings.”
Taking this into account, we may assume that though PO’s presence on a sprint daily stand-up is optional, their attendance will be valuable as they are a part of a Scrum Team (Scrum is effective when there are no sub-teams but a whole-team mindset).
Below are a few reasons why it might add value to a PO to attend the Daily Scrum:
- Presence at a daily stand-up allows PO to receive early feedback from developers. Listening about the sprint progress/challenges the team faces, allows the PO to use this information to refine user stories, modify the backlog, and update the product roadmap.
- The Product Owner in the Scrum meeting will get a better understanding of the technical aspect of a product which will help them prioritize the backlog more accurately.
- During the Daily Scrum, the team may raise questions about priorities (for example, if someone reports the bug) or user stories in a sprint backlog. As one of the PO's responsibilities is to manage and prioritize the backlog, their presence in dailies allows to bring clarity on the overall product vision and stories in progress, and define which story to omit if the team is falling behind the schedule. Finally, PO’s presence at stand-ups shortens the amount of time a developer has to wait for a response.
- At the daily stand-up, the team discusses obstacles and blockages they have and a PO might be able to provide them with helpful information regarding the business context to help developers smooth their way towards overcoming those obstacles.
Now let’s summarize the main points that characterize the role of the Product Owner in the Daily Scrum meeting.
- The Product Owner can attend the Daily Scrum if they feel it brings value. They shouldn’t be active participants there, but rather attentive listeners. POs can only participate as team members and may only share some really important information that helps developers reach the sprint goal.
- It’s not the responsibility of a Product Owner to lead or facilitate a Daily Scrum, and developers do not report them on what was done.
- Product Owners that attend stand-ups should listen about things that require their attention to be able to follow up with team members who have questions for them right after the Daily Scrum (if possible).
Now that we know that the PO can be present at dailies, let’s discuss how they should behave to support the team and not steer the event in the wrong direction.
5 pieces of advice in case the PO chooses to attend the Daily Scrum
Here are five things to remember to help the team benefit from your presence at stand-up meetings as a PO.
- Don’t interfere. The Daily Scrum is not your event, but developers’. They need to be self-managed and feel the ownership of deciding what to do next, and how to implement this or that feature. Stay focused and don’t step in, even if you have a brilliant new idea to share (there are refinement sessions for that) until you are asked a question.
- Focus on the outcome metrics and not the output-driven metrics. Very often, during the daily, the PO focuses on the velocity, asking developers why some items are moving to “done” so slowly. It’s not right, as the Product Owner should care about metrics that show if customers got the value they wanted to get, and not what actions were done to achieve this outcome.
- Avoid the “me vs they” mentality. Beware not to create a sense of hierarchy by holding the meeting (as you risk killing innovation). As well, during the Daily Scrum don’t stand aside from the whole team and don’t be late. Remember you’re a part of it. Mind that developers talk to the whole team, and not address their speech directly to you.
- Ensure the team is aware of why you attend Daily Scrums. If people begin to question why the Product Owner is present, when they know little about the technical aspect of a product, you may ask a Scrum Master to explain that your presence is advantageous to them and necessary for an efficient and open development process, as you are a part of the team that represents the product to the stakeholders (customers and management).
- If anyone in the team wants to raise any issues that require your assistance, leave it to the end of the stand-up to have a breakout discussion. Everyone uninvolved in that discussion can leave at that point. And if you want to receive a regular update on stories from team members, schedule a separate meeting. For instance, to be on track with the product teams, our designers at Eleken usually agree on regular meetings with a PO, that can be held every day, once a week, or at any other convenient time interval. There we can talk about current sprint progress, and roadblocks, or ask some specific questions.
To sum up
A Product Owner is a part of a Scrum team, who is responsible and accountable to deliver a working product at the end of each sprint. Therefore, even if a PO is not currently working on items in the sprint backlog as a developer, they still should join the Daily Scrum for quick decision-making and changing priorities in the sprint backlog.
Everything in the Daily Scrum should help the team collaborate together and move forward in reaching the sprint goal, and the Product Owner’s objectives during the Daily Scrum should also be directed to support this goal.