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I know this may fall under "opinion," but I'm also genuinely looking for advice on how to proceed here.

Our product owner recently left our team of 3 developers for another role. We don't work on a single product, but do lots of projects and support multiple applications for other business units.

I was previously a lead developer as well as the Scrum Master, and now that our PO left, that's now my role too. I'm just wondering if this sounds like a setup for failure to anyone, or if there's a way to make it work productively, what are some things I can do (or watch out for) to be as effective as possible in this triple role?

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    Does this answer your question? Is the Product Owner also a developer on your team?
    – gnat
    Dec 7 '20 at 15:20
  • (Bertrand Meyer - Agile! The Good, the Hype and the Ugly) On the other hand, it makes no sense to combine the "coach" and "product owner" role (if the latter is distinct from "manager"). A separate product owner should represent the business needs and not meddle in how the team works. Dec 7 '20 at 15:34
  • Have you considered training up a collegue as the new Scrum Master? Otherwise it looks like you're turning into more of a technical-manager role (need not be a bad setup, Scrum hasn't patented the truth). Dec 7 '20 at 15:41
  • @gnat I saw that answer, but it was 6 years ago, and didn't address the "and a scrum master too" part. Dec 7 '20 at 18:38
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[...] what are some things I can do (or watch out for) to be as effective as possible in this triple role?

It's simple. Stop playing all three roles.

It's not just a matter of having a conflict of interest between being the Scrum Master (concerned with the process) and the Product Owner (concerned with delivery), but you can't realistically handle all of the responsibilities. Basically, you will end up ignoring one role or the other, or all of the roles at different moments in time.

I'm just wondering if this sounds like a setup for failure to anyone

Yes it does. Find yourself a Product Owner, or find someone else as a Scrum Master. If you do share one of the roles with being a developer (be it the Scrum Master or the Product Owner one) pay careful attention at not neglecting this role while playing developer (or the other way around).

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First, I would assume by "agile" you mean Scrum as Product Owner and Scrum Master are actually Scrum roles.

Basing on this assumption: to answer your question - yes, this is not prohibited for the Product Owner to also be a developer. But this can cause lack of balance. I would say, it really takes a wise man to be able to combine both roles with no significant impact on the effectiveness of the team. And definitely, this guy should be a true energiser to be able to: estimate development effort, write code, talk to team mates on technical solutions, participate in code review and testing, talk to user, talk to stakeholders, gather requirements, talk to UX guys, work out wireframes, keep backlog transparent, keep business informed on the progress, estimate business value, etc.

Also, from my own experience - combining multiple roles is causing a burn-out very quickly. So, I wouldn't recommend doing this.

Speaking about your case specifically - you don't actually have Scrum. There is no team lead role in Scrum. There should be a single Product for the team to work on. Having various applications and projects is generally not prohibited, but this should all go under the same Product and you should be able to transparently prioritise value across all the projects and apps. As an example, even working on various projects and apps, you can have your company as a product with a main value gain reflected by revenue. But this looks a bit artificial to be honest.

How do you choose which project/app you are going to be focused the next Sprint?

Product Owner is not the person which writes tickets, this is the person which prioritises value. Meaning, this person decides what to do next basing on input of various stakeholders. Are you able to decide yourself what the team is going to work on?

And to be honest, I don't see you as a Scrum Master. You definitely don't understand what is Scrum and why do you want to have it.

I would start with reading the Scrum Guide and taking an open assessment for it (it is free).

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  • Thanks. I do believe I fit your "engineer definition," and you're right, the multiple roles are difficult to juggle. The thing I think I can't really do well given the multiple products is set priority. Or, I can, but it's really the priority that's handed to me by management. As to being a scrum master, I do take a bit of umbrage with your last two sentences. I believe I do understand Scrum (though certainly not an expert at implementing it); I've been through both scrum master and product owner training, and got SM certification through the Scrum Alliance. Apr 22 at 13:25

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