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Scrum – what happens when the Product Owner does not have enough authority ?

The success of the usage of the Scrum process for a project depends to a massive extent on the various roles involved in the project, primarily divided into the following roles – the Product Owner, the Scrum Master, and the Scrum team (comprising of Dev and QE). In addition, there are other stakeholders, but these are the primary drivers of the Scrum project.
The Product Owner has a very important role for the Scrum project, since he is the person who defines the list of features and lists out the User Stories, and prioritizes these User Stories. The Product Owner keeps the Product Backlog maintained, and acts as the customer representative for the team; including answering all the queries from the team about the User Stories.
But, sometimes what happens is that the Product Owner does not have the required authority, is not empowered enough to be fully effective for the Scrum team. What happens when the Product Owner is not empowered enough ? How does this effect his productivity ? There are a number of problems that emerge when the Product Owner is not empowered:
– The Product Owner is not able to take decisions quickly enough. So, if the Product Owner has to consult his or her boss for decision making or for getting guidance, this can delay the decision making and cause the team to not get quick decisions.
– If the Product Owner is not the decision maker (keeping in mind that for major decisions, there will always be more stake holders involved who can also get involved when the decisions to be taken is strategic enough), then there is a high probability that some of the decisions taken by the Product Owner can be over-turned later by others. This can cause a high impact on the efficiency of the Scrum team and in some cases, cause them to reverse some of their implemented items. When something like this happens, the confidence of the team in the Product Owner also reduces, which can further reduce the efficient working of the Scrum team.
– When there are items that are decided by others and the Product Owner has to convey these decisions, then in many cases, the Product Owner does not have the conviction in these matters and is not able to carry these decisions forward. And is unable to be easily able to answer queries from the team.
– When the Product Owner has to keep on going to others for many decisions, this reduces the confidence of the Product Owner in their own abilities; and can further cause problems in terms of the Product Owner not being able to take decisions even when there is no conflict.

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