I am certified scrum master but never practiced until tomorrow when I have been appointed as a SCRUM Master to a pilot initiative in the company to implement SCRUM in a team of non-software and non project but daily activity. I let you imagine all the politics around this decision.

the work will start on 1st of Aug and the product owner has set up a meeting tomorrow to create the product backlog with me and another person which will not be part of the team.


  • who should propose the structure of the product backlog tomorrow (me or the PO)
  • should we create directly user stories with the Product owner?
  • I have a one hour meeting and in my understanding I need more than that? what is your suggestion on how to proceed?

I know all the theory but I miss the very practical steps to start.

thanks for your help :)

here couple of more info:

  • department: product development (non IT products)
  • team: 7 people
  • Product owner: is the manager of the department (the 7 people in the team are his team)
  • Scrum Master: I do not belong to the team nor to the department, I am working as staff function
  • beginning of the work: 1st of August (but as you see in the question the PO wants to create the product backlog with me tomorrow (45 days in advance)
  • company: 100 years old, 25k employees, always used Waterfall methodology only 3-4 SCRUM initiatives ongoing in small IT projects (budget less than 500k €)
  • 1
    I would suggest also browsing the questions at project management.SE for information on the scrum master role. I will emphasize that the majority of the people on programmers.SE will come at this from the developer viewpoint (which isn't wrong, but not necessarily getting the scope/view that you are going to be looking at the project at). You may get a different view from the answers from project managers rather than programmers. – user40980 Jun 16 '15 at 15:56

who should propose the structure of the product backlog tomorrow (me or the PO)?

Generally it is the Product Owner that creates the product backlog. The whole point of the product backlog is to be a list of features desired by the business in prioritized order.

should we create directly user stories with the Product owner?

The contents of the backlog are the responsibility of the product owner, both the contents of the user stories and their order. That said, the creation of user stories is almost always something that involves the technical team.

I have a one hour meeting and in my understanding I need more than that? what is your suggestion on how to proceed?

In classic scrum, you have three meetings:

  1. At the start of the sprint, you have a planning meeting where you decide what stories will be in the sprint, and where you make sure that the stories are well defined enough for developers to code against them. How long these are depends on the team and the sprint length. For my team it usually runs a bit over an hour.
  2. During each sprint, you have a daily standup. This should be short, ideally around ten minutes. The product owner may not be present.
  3. At the end of each sprint, you have a review where the team demonstrates the software to the product owner.
  • Ten minutes for a standup feels long, unless your team is 15-20 people. Usually it's 15-45 seconds per person, as in "I've done this and this, which resulted in so and so, I plan to do that and that". – 9000 Jun 16 '15 at 16:03
  • 2
    To be honest, everywhere I've seen scrum used, the fight is to prevent it being from a half-hour. – Gort the Robot Jun 16 '15 at 16:12
  • Half-hour is an utter failure. Anything that needs to be discussed in more than 3-4 phrases should happen after the standup, only with people interested in the particular subject. Also, in my team at JetBrains we kept voice on standups somehow low to promote attentive listening. – 9000 Jun 16 '15 at 16:32

IMHO, don't do this. If you want to go Agile Crystal Clear or Kanban would be more appropriate for your company.

Scrum is the worst, and you're already getting it wrong by being scrum master but not part of the team! Typically, in Scrum the PO is the one who assigns the backlog - its his job to make decide what he wants from the product, so its his job to prioritise the features he wants. He should be liaising with the team to do this (as the team will give useful feedback to him as to what can be achieved, or what foundations are needed for the features he wants implemented).

This is key, if you want to be agile, you need to involve the team in this process. Deciding what the initial design will be, and they telling the team "do this work" is, well, very waterfall. (and I know Scrum does tend to degenerate into a series of 2-week waterfalls, that doesn't make it a good thing).

So, in your planning meeting be there with the team. Tell the PO to tell all of you what he wants, and you'll tell him what you can achieve in the time allocated to the sprint. Then he should disappear and not come back until the end of the sprint when you'll show him what you've managed to get done. Then you iterate what extra stuff (or original stuff you didn't have time to do) he wants done.

Your job is to get the meeting going, get the team involved, and get the PO out of there when he has explained what he needs doing. Do not be the 'team manager'. Scrum master is NOT the team lead, team manager or any form of team boss. Your job is to keep the team clear to do their thing.

  • 2
    You might be mixing up the product backlog and the sprint backlog. The product backlog contains all work still remaining for the complete project and is maintained by the PO. – Bart van Ingen Schenau Jun 16 '15 at 15:47
  • @BartvanIngenSchenau ah yes, partly - but the team should still be involved with the initial product backlog, and should (roughly) be doing what I described, only concerning the total product. – gbjbaanb Jun 16 '15 at 15:51
  • I don't think the team needs to be involved in the initial drafting, but they certainly must be involved in getting the items on the backlog into a shape that they can actually be realized. (And that must happen before an item is taken into a sprint) – Bart van Ingen Schenau Jun 16 '15 at 15:56
  • It sounds like when the OP says, "not part of the team" he is referring to those building the product. The scrum master only helps the team implement scrum and isn't involved in the rest 'as the scrum master' but may have an additional role in the project. Many scrum masters wear multiple hats. – JeffO Jun 16 '15 at 18:29

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