ScrumMaster Gets Fired
Alias: Mike Cohn Gets Fired
Context: ... the team has formed and is looking to the Product Owner for leadership in setting business priorities.
Problem : The Product Owner does not sequence the PBIs, or has ordered the requirements into groups with many PBI's having the same priority.
Solution : The Scrum team needs a single, well formed, sequenced list of Product Backlog Items that allows them to focus on maximizing value delivery. Without it they can generate features that are never or rarely used, deliver features at the wrong time which sub-optimizes revenue, or become confused and disoriented and unable to deliver anything
If that is not the case, use the 3 legs that Scrum relies on, transparency and then the organization can inspect and adapt. This can be done in several ways, for instance that team chooses what they think is the highest value and when complete the sprint make sure as many stakeholders as possible are present at the sprint review. As the development team does not have the full knowledge to choose work for the Sprint Backlog on a strategy based on "Highest Return of Investment", stakeholders will provide feedback on optimizing the sequencing of the Product Backlog. This should lead to process improvement and the organization finding a Product Owner.
One of the more extreme ways to make this transparent is for the team work on low (lowest) value PBI's. In one instance the ScrumMaster asked the development team what they thought where the lowest value PBI's. Having the team pointing them out, ScrumMaster suggested the team take them into the next sprint. The team worked on the PBIs during the sprint and presented them during the Sprint Review. Product Owner and Stakeholders where present, got furious, fired the ScrumMaster—but did however provide a ordered Product Backlog after this.
See also Sacrifice One Person.
Author: Jens Østergaard & Jim Coplien