Sleeping

The role of product owner is critical for ensuring that the rest of the business and the IT team work together effectively. It also requires significant effort on a daily basis. The product owner provides vision, mentors the team, answers questions, makes decisions about the product, communicates with the broader organization, negotiates resource contentions, coordinates business interaction and serves as a liaison to leaders. In short, the role is difficult and complex. So much so that I have suggested on more than one occasion that it is the most challenging role in Scrum. There are many potential pitfalls in Scrum, however potentially the most destructive and easiest to avoid is the overworked product owner. Overworked product owners will tend are less effective.

What happens when someone is overworked?  Sooner or later they will neglect something and cut corners. Some work gets jettisoned as they try to bring their life back to equilibrium. Overworking the product owner may lead to inattention to the team, neglect of grooming the product backlog, and unavailability or missed meetings. It is possible that the product owner will neglect their day job, however I have generally noticed that people tend to focus first on that portion of their job that is most important to their long-term career neglecting their role of the product owner on the  project.

The product owner role is challenging; to perform it in a manner that is effective requires effort and focus. Organizations need to ensure that product owners have enough of their time allocated to the product owner role. Work generally needs to be taken off their plate. The rest of the team needs to support the product owner so that obstacles are minimized. Avoid Overworked-Product-Owner Syndrome and make sure the person that is playing the product owner role has the time needed to focus on the project rather on the work they can avoid.

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