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There's an interesting discussion going on over on the Scrum Development list, dealing with technical stories verses user stories.  The idea is that "Improve our continuous integration server" may not directly translate to visible functionality for a customer, so how do you handle this in Scrum.  It's a conversation that pops up regularly and there are a couple of schools of thought on the subject.  I'm not going to get into here.


In the midst of this discussion I jokingly (sort of) made a reference to the "Product Owners Oath of Stewardship."


right after that Alan Dayley pointed out that

Phrases seen in Scrum writings with regard to the Product Owner role:  "...owns the ROI of the product..."  "..represents the customer..."  "...owns the Product Backlog..." and the odious "...single wringable neck..."  And even the title of the role means *owner* of the product.

What part of these terms does not mean stewardship?  You are pointing out that Product Owners are not getting the message, *despite* what the Scrum training and literature states.  Maybe an oath would help but I don't think the message of product stewardship is lacking in Scrum.


When Alan pointed out that we imply Stewardship, but never actually use the word, it was like a gong going off in my head (or a badly aimed claymore).  When talking with product owners, If we don't explicitly set an expectation of stewardship, then *none* of those terms will mean stewardship.  Right now, there are teams out there that are begging to add some unit tests, begging to set up a continuous integration server, begging to try paired programming and they're getting shot down because it might slow *this* sprint down.


So what is Stewardship?  Well, to cherry pick from Wikipedia "Stewardship is an ethic that embodies cooperative planning and management of environmental resources with organizations, communities and others to actively engage in the prevention of loss of habitat and facilitate its recovery in the interest of long-term sustainability " It's a little wordy, and it's specifically focused on physical environments, but for now I think it's the one I'm going to keep.


At this point, I've got to at least post version 1.0 of this thing, if nothing else because when the movie rights get sold, I don't want some kid in the audience saying, "that idiot should have blogged about right away"


So, tongue in cheek, here goes, version 1.0 of "The Product Owners Oath of Stewardship"


As a product owner, I have a responsibility to my customer to deliver the most value in the shortest time possible.  I have a responsibility to show the customer working software and demonstrate new functionality every 1 to 4 weeks.


As a product owner, I am a steward to my product and therefore will listen to my team when they start to talk about refactoring and continuous integration servers.  I will accept that my team is also committed to the long term sustainability of our product and weigh their suggestions accordingly.


As a product owner, I will balance the need to deliver software ASAP, and improving my teams software development environment and practices while knowing that these are not mutually exclusive activities.  I will support my team in doing smart refactorings, and to allow the product backlog to suggest where improvements might be made.


Not so funny now is it?

Posted on Wednesday, December 1, 2010 11:58 PM Agile Development , Leadership , Scrum | Back to top

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