I took over the job of a product owner in a scrum team (size: about 10 people) a few months ago (where I was a part of the development team for a few years before). The team is one of about 20-30 teams in a bigger project and we get directly a lot of pressure from the customer.
Since our team is covering many features and components, we always try to have as many substitutes as possible for each feature. However, for one topic of the team, someone was hired (let's call him Adam) and promised a special role within the team that he should be completely responsible for these topics. Since the old product owner did not have great interest in that topic, he did not question the special role of Adam. So, the old product owner was the interface to all other teams, management and customer, expect for that one special topic.
However, Adam is not very efficient in handling those "communicative" topics and spends about half of his with non-productive activities caused by the special role he got (e.g., while the old product owner and also me can take part in a phone call with management, we can answer multiple customer mails in parallel and think about priority while Adam is fully occupied with one activity, ...). When there was a priority on one of his topics, he requested people into his "subteam" and defined himself to a "sub product owner" who was doing a second stand-up, planning, etc. This caused him to develop very few lines of code in such situations (though he is calculated as fully developer).
Since we now get much more pressure from the customer and the team is smaller than before (two people left), we decided to bundle all these communication to me as product owner in order to give all the developers as much time for development as possible. This was backup by the senior management. But for me it seems that Adam does not accept this. A few examples:
- I am having meetings from time to time with other teams when we have finished work packages they need; and the meetings are very high level (without any technical questions) as "We need you to finish A until May since we then need to begin with B", but he insists of joining because it is about "this" topics
- There is a project wide prioritization that we are tracked for some topics and some other topics are already decided to have lower priority (which was hard work to that such a decision). However, Adam is conducting meetings with people for these low prio topics without notifying me (leading to much unfinished work).
- Acceptance criteria for work packages are extended on this own without discussing that with the team and without adjusting the needed time.
All in all, what is finished is good, but due to this behavior, I would say that I can only give priority for about 20% of this time; for the rest Adam is doing what he wants. The remaining team is also not so happy about this.
I spoke to his senior manager (who is also mine) about the situation, but he does not want to take away the "special role" of Adam; and he fears that Adam might leave the team where he criticizes Adams. From my technical impression (as I was part of the team), the topics of Adam are not so complicated that a few people can learn and to be substitutes of these topics (which is very important in case of vacation, parental leaves, etc.). But my feeling is that Adam does not let anyone to dig deeper into this topics (not clear if conscious or unconscious).
What can I do to improve the situation? My main goal is to increase the overall output of the team and to keep the atmosphere within the team as good as possible.
In particular what are the disadvantages of the following ideas?
- Stricter tracking of Adam's tasks (or of the whole team)?
- Direct confrontation with the risk that my senior manager is unhappy with that and Adam might want to leave?
- Insist of finding substitutes for every small topic (even if that might take longer now)?
- Make him personally responsible in front of the management for "his" topics?
- Give him topics which can be tracked more easy and which are not popular in the rest of team?
- Just accept the situation as it is and save time?