The Product Owner as a teammate


Many of us play a specific role within agile teams, but a key role is the Product Owner. Many POs represent biz organizations where a fractured relationship exists between the org & IT.

I’ve been on a dozen different agile teams and I’ve found it to be quite tricky to endear yourself to the agile team (mostly made up of resources within IT), but by following a few key guiding principals you can become a trusted teammate, and not just “the person representing the business”. What sustainable tactics have you used to build a healthy relationship with your team?

I’ve felt that being as transparent as possible about business goals helps build shared understanding. Vocally, in user stories, and through visual collateral. Donuts during grooming help, but that lasts only until the sugar wears off.


Great questions!

I think you’ve hit all the important topics

  • Transparency
  • Empathy
  • Rapport
  • Trust

IMO there’s a healthy tension that exists between the PO and the DEV-Team.

Continue to bring that elephant into the room… and work collaboratively to make it as small as possible.

Share each other’s interests and work towards finding common, mutually acceptable ground. Collaborate, communicate.

An idea that I’ve never actually put into practice: Pair up. Invite a Dev-Team member or two to come pair with you and “be a PO for a day.” Have them sit in on a stakeholder PBI roadmap discussion with the gold owner. You probably already have a good insight into what a typical Dev-Team day is like. Let them see your PO world.

And don’t forget to find some time to include some serious play.


I like the “PO for a day” idea. Solid.

I always draw attention to the work of the agile team before all demos. I try to call out specific individuals by name if they did something during the sprint that was uber impressive and deserving of kudos.

Absolutely without a doubt I always communicate as “us” not “them”. I’d rather go down with the ship then sneak off in the lifeboat. Its about character and sleeping well at night.


I really Appreciate a product owner that makes the effort to be part of the team… When a group of people trust one anther they are more likely to succeed… I had a Po the other day ask me if I could help him write gherkin so more of his acceptance criteria could be automated so he could remove regression form his plate an keep the the backlog in better shape. I gave him some training and pointed him to
fantastic tool…


I have always encouraged Product Owners to be part of the team, and not create an us vs them situation between teams and management. I agree with @Scrummando points, but you need to be careful and make sure this doesn’t go too far, I’ve seen situations where the Product Owner gets too involved to the team and to the detriment of the Product Backlog.

To answer the original question, to keep the relationship healthy I like to always state that the Product Backlog is the team’s backlog, the Product Owner chooses the priority, but everyone in the team is responsible for the quality of the stories or other items on it This encourages the teams to look at the backlog early and collaborate with the Product Owner, often on a daily basis. The main benefit of this is understanding on both sides, by early collaboration the PO appreciates the help and starts to understand that this is not “3 lines of code”, instead of getting disappointed / angry when they’ve put lots of effort into writing an “easy” story, only for the team to bring out the 40 point card. The developers, testers, designers, etc, also start to understand the pressures the PO is under, especially if they are writing stories for a new sprint which is only a few days away.


I’m very fortunate to be able to say that I’m 100% part of my super awesome team. There are 2 main factors that allow that level of cohesion, I believe. Trust is #1. I trust my team completely, each and every one of them - I know that at any given moment they are, as individuals and as a team, doing the best that they can do. I believe they trust me the same way. We succeed as a team and we fail as a team - I will never blame the team publicly for a failure and they have the same respect for me.

Empathy is #2. I’ve been working with devs for 15+ years and I understand what frustrates them - and I try really hard not to be that. I’ve also been candid with the team about ‘what exactly I do all day’ (i.e all the stuff I deal with before it gets to them and distracts them)… so they can hopefully have some empathy for me too.

Honestly, I can’t imagine feeling like I was not a ‘full’ part of the team or that I was something of an outsider. Without my team, all I have is a vision. And a lot of angry people who want stuff. Without me, all the team has is a bunch of code. And a lot of angry people who don’t want THAT code, they want THIS code. The only way we succeed is holding each other up as we march (or stumble) towards a common goal.

My team is the best part of my day, every day. We have a fairly large product management team at my company. But when I’m talking with someone and I say ‘My team…’, it’s not the other product managers I’m talking about. It’s my scrum team.

Am I unique? Do other POs not feel like they are really part of the team? Do you think that PO/Dev relationships affect the success and/or struggles of a team?