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I am currently a Scrum master of a team since a few months.

The Product Owner feels he's not part of a team, not liked by Team Members and that he is sidelined. For more context, he's been with the company for many years. He was first a dev, then a Scrum Master. He gave up the role because he wasn't a good fit. So he switched position to be a Product Owner. After that, there was not Scrum Master at all for more than 6 months until I was hired.

I don't really know what to do but I think it's important to do something because:

  • In retrospectives, it sours the interactions, as he feels apart, he's negative
  • He wants to impose his point of view, he doesn't accept criticism but criticize everyone else
  • He never comes to daily meetings so he counts on me to repeat what was said everyday and when the team has questions about user stories, they don't have instant answer so it can slow down the development
  • He's demotivating the team, always sighing, he's not convincing the team the user stories are important.

In my opinion, I don't like him that much because he's negative with everybody. But, as I am neutral, I manage to not show it and I try to push him to be more participative, positive and present with the team.

It could be a management problem, but I couldn't address it (right now) as Product Team is another Team and a new Head of Product has been hired and will be soon with us

So the question is: What can I do, as a Scrum Master, to help him?

Why I want to help him? It will be gainful if all the Scrum Team was in good terms, plus it's an impediment at many moments in the sprint.

PS: Sorry if my English is not that good, not my mother tongue.

Answers :

  1. What does "is negative" mean? What kind of "positivity" are you looking for? 2) About what is he trying to impose his view? (As PO, he should be the final arbiter of business value, but not dictate technical stuff). Is the criticism constructive and helpful? 3) Why do you think he should participate in daily meetings? According to Scrum, the PO is not required to attend these. 4) What is he "sighing" about? And why does that demotivate the team?

1/ He's always put ideas to progress down, because "It's so difficult" "It won't works" "Too much work for me". He's not trying to improve and complains when team is not improving. I would like him to at least try, without having to fight with him everytime the team want a minor change. 2/ He imposed to the team a Kanban by going to upper management (The CEO ...) and then complain that the team was not motivated by this change, he has no right to say how the team should do the work. 3/ He's not required it's true, but he's always asking me questions about what was said, how the dev are doing X thing, if they are blocked ... If he wants to know that, we have a daily meeting !! He could just connect to the online meet, listen and then answer the questions if the team have some. 4/ He's sighing about everything. Minor changes, Team wants more context/infos about a user story, team asking for a flow chart, team asking questions, team goes too fast, team goes to slow, retro is "too hard" he never thought about this subject. Always negative. And when someone is always negative, it poisons the team.

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  • What are the specific reasons the product owners tells you when he complains that he is not part of the team ? Does he say that the team either does not cooperate with him or or does not listen to him ? Jul 1 at 13:46
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    Your english is very good. Jul 1 at 13:59
  • I agree with Gregory - your English is excellent. I made a few minor edits to make your post a little more idiomatic in places. If you feel like I've changed your meaning, you should feel free to correct my edits.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 1 at 14:09
  • @Job_September_2020 Team listen to him when he's proposing good ideas. They're not mean. They try to cooperate but he's quite condescending and negative
    – WillVailla
    Jul 1 at 14:21
  • @JoeStrazzere I think he understands what a PO should do, we even list the tasks he must do with or for the team. We are waiting for the new head but we would like to solve this the earlier we can For you second message, as he's pretty demotivated, most of the time, he's not "fighting" for priority, as if it has no importance. So when he suddenly try to do so, he's not taken seriously by the team and he's even convinced by them.
    – WillVailla
    Jul 1 at 14:25
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Unfortunately my view is that you should not look to help your PO, since he obviously won't change and is not accepting help and constructive feedback. I would rather stay on the side of your team (which from your neutral view has the more reasonalble reasons why things are not good).

Talk with your team how they see it, then talk to the PO about what the issues are, what is expected of him and what is required to be able to work together.

If he is not ready to adapt to the majority, and the majority suffers because of one person (who seems to previously already failed in other roles) escalate the entire thing with your team to the upper management and ask for another PO.

I am not usually for such solutions, but from everything you wrote, it doesn't seem he is ready to make a compromise or is interested in anything else but himself. This is not a person that can work in a team at all.

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According to "Agile development" relative concepts and rules, written on the book, PO is not need to join the daily start up because PO role doesn't belong to scrum team (but BA is).

In my view, scrum master role indeed has responsibility to encourage the team, so you are right. But PO doesn't have that responsibility, however, he should not show negative emotion to in the sprint.

In the retro, PO role no need to say so much thing, because scrum master run the meeting, until someone talked with him.

So I think you can help him in following:

  1. Remind him not show negative emotion in the team
  2. Remind him answer questions in JIRA tickets on time (I think this is much important)
  3. In the retro, try to let people voice out things in positive view, and voice out about the improve view. I mean, avoid to let anyone criticise other people, because if anyone mind, then he / she would not look at the truth, but attack each other.(well, this is the fact).
  4. If possible, let the team have lunch or have some activity outside work, let the team happier.
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  • @Michael He's not required to join daily, it's true, but if he wants to know things, he could just come and listen (As other PO do in my others teams) not spamming me 3 minutes after the end to know what happened. 1/ Already did, I said to him to be a little less negative, that things take time to be better 2/ Same, already did 3/ I made many templates that are focus on the positive -> He doesn't know what to say 4/We have 2 hours for lunch everyday, so they can do that if they want. They go to a bar after working but he's never coming with team. He is always with his product team
    – WillVailla
    Jul 2 at 6:45

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