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Can the Product Owner and Scrum Master be the Same Person?

Scrum is an agile project management framework that enables teams to deliver value in 30 days or less. The two most notable roles in Scrum are the Scrum Master and Product Owners. But for those new to Scrum, question we sometimes get asked is, can the Product Owner and Scrum Master be the same person?

To understand why this is NOT a good idea its probably best to understand what both roles do.

Scrum Master Activities

A Scrum Masters role is to help teams and organisations get the best from Scrum. A Scrum Master is engaged day to day in some of the following work

  • Facilitating Events, Workshops and meetings
  • Managing Risks and Impediments
  • Training, Mentoring and Coaching the Team
  • Working with Managers and Leaders to plan Scrum/Agile adoption
  • Observing events
  • Eliminating Organisational Impediments

All of the above activities require strong focus, deep skill and time to do the job well. Great Scrum Masters spend a lot of time to generate the skills they need to get really good at their work. There is a strong people component as well as a organisational component. Scrum Master are lot like skilled engineers solving complex problems. Their thinking and effort is around uncovering barriers to successful Scrum and figuring out how to overcome them.

Product Owner Activities

A Product Owner tends to be doing some of the following work however.

  • Testing Product Ideas
  • Reviewing Features with Customers
  • Communicating status to stakeholders
  • Managing delivery dates
  • Negotiating with competing Stakeholders
  • Creating and managing the product roadmap
  • Ordering the Product Backlog
  • Aligning work to the company’s strategic goals
  • Running Refinement meetings and generating clear requirements for the developers
  • Splitting work into small independent pieces
  • Running Sprint Planning meetings and Sprint Review meetings
  • Working out the Release roadmap
  • Managing project work versus urgent support requests
  • Working on estimates and costs

To do Product Ownership well, the Product Owner is working hard to understand what customers want and need. The Product Owner is also trying balance the cost vs delivery vs value conundrum. And to do that well, the Product Owner needs to be constantly learning from the market, communicating progress to stakeholders whilst being available to the developers to answer questions etc.

Both the Scrum Master role and the Product Owner role is full time. Just by looking at the list of activities for both we can see that one person doing both roles wont last long. The mindset and skillset needed for each role is different and disparate.

Trying to have a Scrum Master and Product Owner be one person is a bit like asking the chef of a restaurant to also be the waiter, the concierge or the manager. You can try it, but the food will suffer.

If you really want to level up your Scrum Master skills, why not join us on one of our Scrum Training events here or take our practice assessments here:

And finally, to continue learning you can find our blogs here.

Good luck in your Scrum journey!