New to Agile - Question



I’m still learning about AGILE, and there is a situationI am unsure as to how to tackle.

If I may ask:

  1. What should be done when the Product Owner doesn’t believe the team is working at full capacity, and wants to overload the team to see if the team can get it done.
  • I am under the idea that as a SCRUM master, I can:
    A) stop this, and tell him to Trust the team,
    B) tell the team of the current situation and see how they response.
    C) have another team estimate the work as well, as see what their estimate is (though this my foster distrust in the original team)

My PO seems to be adamant that we need to figure out the teams velocity as he fears that maybe the team is just taking it easy and not pushing themselves hard enough. What should I do to alleviate this fear?

Beyond the 3 options mentioned, what other options exist?

Thank You


B) is a risk, as it only extends the fear/anxiety and lack of trust to the team awareness… should they know the PO doesn’t trust them, how will this damage or help in the long run? Part of being a scrum master is to buffer the team and know how to select when/what to tell them. Only you know the politics and can make that decision.

A) isn’t an option unless the PO trusts YOU already… otherwise you are just creating an us/them divide and putting yourself in the middle.

C) you already know this is a risk, and estimation (in story points) is not comparable across teams. Estimates from another team are only valid if that other team does the work.

Back to #1 - employ the 5 why’s here. Why does he think that? and for each answer, keep digging… why that? well, why that? Find the root cause. It could be as simple as 1-2 people on the team that he’s observed and gotten a wrong impression about (my manager does that sometimes when desks are empty at 5pm, but he didn’t see people at 6am before he arrived). Is it really about the team?

Also, it sounds like this PO might need to be closer to the team. Is the PO attending all the ceremonies and discussions (and are they ENGAGED in them)? Are they in the Slack channel? (are they trusted in those forums?) Sometimes distance breeds distrust and detail fiddling.

Another thought… are they projecting their pressure on you? Is the business putting pressure on the PO to expedite things and question dates, and the PO is in turn passing that along? What can be done to understand this? How do you combat unrealistic expectations? How can you not be late before you even start? How can you show empathy and thus rebuild trust?

Do you have a development manager that can help you with these conversations? if not, then the leads of the dev’s on the team…

I’m all over the map here… hopefully something here helps.


I’ll do a terrible thing and answer your question with a ton more questions. Since I don’t know your current situation, my hope is that it’ll inspire action:

  • Has this PO worked with an agile team before? Does he understand where his role begins and ends? How comfortable is he with that understanding?
  • Most who don’t do the work don’t understand how much work is there. How embedded is he with the team? How communicative is the team with him? Does the team empathize with his pressures? Does he empathize with the challenges of those in the trenches?
  • Is he exclusively a PO? Or does he have another role in the org? If another role, how does that color his view of the world?
  • Are you familiar with the pressures he has from above? How does that pressure manifest? How familiar is the C-suite with agile? Do they believe that agile only extends to the dev team and not to them? Like the saying goes, “Change is great. You first.”
  • Is there an opportunity for you to support him? Who can you educate? How can you run interference for some of his pressures?
  • Is he even aware that what he’s doing? How are you reflecting back his behaviors in ways that he appreciates and understands? How strong is your partnership with him?
  • Where’s your own blind spots? Is there one here? What about yourself must you first recognize before you can help others?


Using the 5 whys is a great shout (and good reminder to us all - at least to me! - of the need to avoid fixing just symptoms…)


Thank you to everyone who’s responded!! I’ll try and answer a few of the questions in my next response (just wanted to pop a message here so people didn’t think I didn’t see their responses)