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Product Owner Vs Scrum Master: Dawn of Justice

When moving from waterfall to scrum, a common question occurs – where do we map our traditional roles?

What do we do with our BA, QA, Project and Product Managers?  Often these roles will just move across into the new organisation as is, often with the same responsibilities.  And sometimes this will be perfectly fine.

But sometimes a bright spark will will cry :

“I know!  Product Owner – that sounds a bit like Product Manager.  Must be the same thing.  Give them the role.  Where is my promotion?”

And then another bright spark, maybe the same one, will pipe up:

“Scrum Master?  Why, that sounds a bit like Scrum Manager, which sounds a bit like Project Manager.  I’ve read all those books, Scrum Masters are meant to resolve impediments to the scrum process.  That is a bit like resolving issues.  Let’s give the role to the Project Manager!  Can I have a promotion too?”

What this may mean is that the person with overall team accountability suddenly finds that is not he/she who is defining deliverables, milestones and schedules.  That responsibility is now sits with the Product Owner.  And this can lead to clashes as the Product Owner takes the product into territory unexpected by the team lead and their seniors.

And our new Scrum Master?  When not crossing swords with his/her new Product Owner they may find themselves with conflicting priorities.  How to protect and nurture the Agile process in the face of other accountabilities.   Might be worth sacrificing a few principles to hit a date right?

Lastly, the Product Manager.  Suddenly the time they need for research, visioning and everything else their role entails is lost to planning and backlog grooming.

This may all be perfectly fine.  But if not, there are many alternative as to how people transition into agile roles.  They need not be one to one from old world to new.

In general, I would paraphrase Toby Ziegler as a starting point: let Product Managers be Product Managers and let Project Managers be Product Owners.  And scrum masters, I would let the whole team take responsibility for looking after their Agile processes.

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