What’s the role of the Product Owner at the Daily Scrum?

Product Owner Jan 2, 2020

Product Owners play no part in the Daily Scrum, but attending can still be worthwhile

Every working day you see Development Teams scurry to huddle together in groups. The Product Owner and Scrum Master are often present as well. At the end of the Daily Scrum everyone disperses to get back to work.

A group of Development Team meerkats huddled together with a confused Product Owner on their left

Why are Product Owners present at the Daily Scrum?

Before we answer that, let’s review the purpose of the Daily Scrum.

Daily Scrum: are we on track to meet the Sprint Goal?

The main purpose of the Daily Scrum is to:

Optimize the probability that the Development Team will meet the Sprint Goal. — Scrum Guide

The format of the Daily Scrum is flexible, as long as it covers the following points from the Scrum Guide:

  • Time-box of 15 minutes and held at the same time and place to reduce complexity.
  • The Development Teams inspects what was completed since the last daily Scrum. The Development Team also plans what it will do in the next 24 hours
  • Inspection (and adaptation) of overall progress toward meeting the Sprint Goal and completing the work in the Sprint Backlog. Keep in mind the Sprint Backlog is flexible, as long as the Sprint Goal is not put at risk.
  • Internal meeting for the Development Team. If others are present, the Scrum Master ensures they do not disrupt the meeting.

As I said before, the format of the Daily Scrum is flexible within these constraints. For example, you don’t need to ask the three questions that many teams use during the Daily Scrum. You can customize it and use a different format.

An example of poor customization of the Daily Scrum format:

1. What did you do yesterday?

2. What will you do today?

3. Is there anything blocking you?

None of these questions help to inspect progress toward completing the Sprint Goal. The Sprint Goal is not optional with Scrum. If you include the Sprint Goal with each question, then they are the same format as described in the Scrum Guide.

After reading the summary of the Daily Scrum together with the constraints, you probably concluded that the Product Owner has no role at the Daily Scrum. You would be right. Heck, even attendance of the Scrum Master is optional.

I still think it can be valuable for the Product Owner to attend for the following two reasons:

  1. The Product Owner is part of the Scrum Team. By not attending an ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality may emerge. Scrum works best without sub-teams and a whole-team mindset.
  2. Inspection at the Daily Scrum may lead to discussions where the input of the Product Owner is necessary. As written in the Scrum Guide:
If the work turns out to be different than the Development Team expected, they collaborate with the Product Owner to negotiate the scope of Sprint Backlog within the Sprint.

How convenient if the Product Owner is already there at the end of the daily Scrum! For a Product Owner of multiple Scrum Teams it may be challenging (or even undesirable) to attend. So it’s up to you decide what works best for you and your Scrum Team(s).

Product Owners don’t need to attend the Daily Scrum, but it may add value!

So in summary, as a Product Owner:

  • You are not required to attend the Daily Scrum. Your attendance is optional. It may not be possible to attend if you are the Product Owner of many Scrum Teams.
  • Product Owners who can attend the Daily Scrum may add value. Keep in mind it’s not your event, but theirs. You are a guest. Let the Development Team do their thing and don’t disrupt them.
  • By being available at the Daily Scrum, you may be able to directly answer the Development Team’s questions to unblock their work. You may also have important additional information about the business context of their work that will make their lives easier. Chime in if it’s quick or wait till after the Daily Scrum to share your thoughts.
  • If you don’t attend, they can still reach out to you afterwards. If you have multiple teams, you may not have time to attend. I do think it can be valuable to attend, but it depends on your situation. It’s up to you to figure out what works best for you and your Scrum Team(s).