In Agile, there are specific moments for planning, reviewing, and improving the entire scrum team. Product Owner, Scrum Master, and multidisciplinary team make the scrum team.
The retrospective is the moment in which the entire scrum team reflects the sprint that ended and what they can do better next time. I love this moment in the sprint when we come together and act now, while we are in the issue, while we can change and improve things, while we are yet motivated. I have a profound respect for the retrospective team moment because it gives the team the opportunity of acting in momentum and not post-mortem.
As an Agile Coach, I often see the case that only the development team and the scrum join the retrospective, but not the Product Owner. It is not because of a lack of will. But about the understanding of how to make the most out of it. I also see people think the retrospective is a moment to play, to relax. Below a list of what is the Product Owner’s role in the retrospective:
- share his/her thoughts about the sprint performance
- brings customer perspective
- brings management overview
- outside the team feedback and perception
- share the profitable part of the product
- shares the vision
- corrects misunderstandings
- emphasize on what it matters
What will be your Product Owner involvement in the retrospective:
#1. Speak out for good, the bad, and the future.
Speak out for the bad. There are things you, as a Product Owner, want the team to do differently, you think the team can have a higher velocity, a better quality of deliverables, or there might be things that bother you. Raise your concerns openly. There is incomplete work. The team doesn’t go the extra mile you expect them to go. You see mismanagement of situations or things that can be better. These are precisely the topics to raise during the retrospective as a PO.
Share the customer’s voice. You are the face of the customer for the rest of the team. They want to know how the market perceives the product they develop. Is it appreciated? Is it up to the customer expectations? It is the feedback the team is expecting from the product owner, and the retrospective is an excellent place to give it.
Communicate the future: what you want to happen, how do you envision working together, what are your expectations from the team, what you want the team to try, how you see the future.
Sharing after each sprint helps to give practical examples of things that just happen and that are fresh in everyone’s mind.
#2. Learn about the teammates’ life, what their challenges are, about the technical issues, what slows them down, what makes them faster, understand what’s happening during the sprint. Everything that your scrum team colleagues experience affects you. Learning about them will help you to understand them and find a solution together. There are a few things you can learn from retrospectives: the human side of your scrum team, the technical issues, the decisions they take every day, and that matters, the team’s understanding of the product.
The human part helps you to deliver better products. It is scientifically proven (you can check Gallups studies and the book — It’s the manager) people work for other people and not for products or companies. If, as a Product Owner, you have a good relation with your scrum team, they will go further beyond and deliver an outstanding product.
The technical challenges the team is facing are the most dangerous ones. They seem to be the PO problem very often, but they affect the outcome as a whole: functionalities, scalability, maintenance, roadmap, everything. For example, the team has issues with deployments. At first glance, from the business perspective, there is not much you can do about it. But when you go deeper into the issue, and you learn there is a technical work that the team does to enable certain business functionalities. You also learn that from an agile perspective, these care called enablers and are very important to foresee them ahead. And to go even further, with it, you realize that sharing the technical part beyond the business functionalities brings trust in your customers.
The propulsion and slowdown causes are other topics that, as a Product Owner, you want to know. First of all, the pure awareness will help you improve the backlog structure, improve the user stories, the relationship with your customers and the other stakeholders. Second of all, you can the team move faster. Out of my experience, the PO has the power to move the organizations to enable the teams to deliver faster. Try it out!
#3. Teach about the business perspective, vision, attitude. The retrospective is also the moment to teach! As a Product Owner, your primary mission is to share the product vision and make sure people understand it. You may want to take advantage of the retrospective time to share those insights about the future of the product that usually there is never time to do every day. The retrospective is also the time to teach the team how they should see the product, the attitude you want the team to have towards the clients, teach them how to help you.
#4. Act together
Act together in improving as a team. Identifying the issues, speaking about them is already very helpful. Now you have to go even further. Deciding on actions to implement monetizes the retrospective. In the retrospective, you must define actions to grow as a team. It is the Scrum Master’s role to take the steps and to make sure the team implements them during the sprint planning and everyday work. Your interest as a Product Owner is to have actions set to improve the topics you are interested in, and that affects the product. It is also in your service to own actions as well. Everyone should feel their Product Owner is part of the team. You’ll see that retrospectives help to build a strong team and outstanding products. You, the Product Owner, must part of it!