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Scrum – When the Product Owner finds it difficult to attend the meetings (Sprint Planning, Retrospective, Demo, and Daily Scrum)

This subject is probably one of the most debated and disputed topics in the entire discussion about Scrum. How many meetings should the Product Owner attend ? If you look at Scrum, there are these set of meetings:
– Sprint Planning: In this meeting (or rather, extended meeting), the Product Owner explains the various User Stories that are supposed to be done in the given Sprint; further, this is the stage where the Scrum team actually breaks down the User Stories into the tasks, and then prepares estimates for these tasks, which are then allocated among the different members of the Scrum team.
– Sprint Retrospective: This is the meeting where the Sprint team looks at what they have done right, what they have done wrong, during the Sprint. When the Scrum team is fully involved with the process, they can always find areas of improvement, whether this be in terms of the process, User Stories, tracking, etc
– Sprint Demo: The team presents whatever they have completed in the current Sprint, and the Product Owner verifies whether this was what was intended and required. The Product Owner can decide whether the Demo was what is needed, can make changes, or even cancel what has been produced (in case there is a drastic change in the overall situation).
For the above meetings, the presence of the Product Owner is required; although there is a case that the presence of the Product Owner may feel that their presence is not really mandatory for the Sprint Retrospective. However, given that the Sprint Retrospective is a good way to figure out whether something is going right or wrong, as well as suggest improvements, it is important that the Product Owner attend this meeting. It is quite difficult to make suggestions about the improvement of the communication between the Scrum team and the Product Owner if the Product Owner is not there to attend. Hence, the ScrumMaster should work with the Product Owner to make sure that they attend these set of meetings.
There is something severely wrong if the Product Owner is not able to attend either the Sprint Planning Meeting or the Sprint Demo; if there is a case that the Product Owner is not able to attend, it would make sense to reschedule this meeting (hard to explain the User Stories if the Product Owner is not there; or have the Sprint demo if the Product Owner cannot make it there to the meeting).
If the ScrumMaster sees that the Product Owner is not regularly making it to these meetings, then one needs to raise this with the Product Owner (and other stakeholders), since the entire efficiency and success of the Sprints can be at a high amount of risk.

In the next part of this story, we will talk about the Product Owner and the Daily Scrum…

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