We’ve looked at four examples of a key customer stepping forward to direct the development of software or a product. Through the use of Scrum, each has taken over the role of Product Owner—some knowingly and others unknowingly. In each case, they have learned to collaborate with the Team, Sprint by Sprint, to control the direction and impact of the development effort.
In each case, the ScrumMaster has brought the Product Owner and the Team together. The collaboration has been either explicit or clandestine, but in each case, it was successful. A key element in each example is that the Team and the Product Owner learned to understand each other. Although this might seem easy, the Team and the Product Owner were in fact speaking different languages before Scrum was implemented. The Product Owner had learned to talk in terms of business requirements and objectives, whereas the Team had learned to speak in terms of technology. Because the Product Owner is unlikely to learn the technology, one of the main jobs of the ScrumMaster is to teach the Team to talk in terms of business needs and objectives. The common denominator between the Team and the Product Owner is the Product Backlog.
I have conducted a number of classes over the last year to teach people to become effective ScrumMasters. These classes are referred to as Certified ScrumMaster training. In addition to figuring out how to apply Scrum to various individual situations, we’ve addressed how the ScrumMaster can get the Product Owner and the Team to speak the same language, to use a meaningful common vocabulary to discuss a mutual problem. The attendees are grouped into teams, and they get together to discuss a business problem and present their understanding and recommendations to the Product Owner. These teams almost always present their understanding in “technospeak,” a language of technology incomprehensible to the Product Owner. When this happens, I show them what they’ve done and help them learn to do otherwise. Through these exercises, I’ve ruthlessly helped future ScrumMasters understand the depths of the language divide that has separated customers and developers. Bridging this gap is critical; if both sides can’t speak the same language, collaboration can’t and won’t occur. The Product Owner has no interest in bridging the gap, and doesn’t have the background to do so anyway, so it is up to the ScrumMaster to help the Team bridge the gap.
In each of the examples in this chapter, the Product Owner and the Team have collaborated to do the best for the business. Each collaboration has resulted in an improved ROI. But how much of an improvement? Without a benchmark against which to measure, such an achievement remains anecdotal. In the next chapter, we will look at how people at the Certified ScrumMaster classes respond when a benchmark for evaluating the ROI of decisions is in place.