Can product owner and scrum master be the same person?

One of the most common considerations especially within small teams is that, Can product owner and scrum master be the same person?

Before we jump on answering this, Let us first understand about these roles.

Product Owner

The product owner has the authority to set a goal and shape the vision. The product owner is responsible for definishing and prioritizing the product backlog that expresses the clear goal.

It is one of the Scrum Role, majorly responsible for handling – “What to build”.

If we talk about one of the major responsibilities of the Product Owner, is to work towards maximising the ROI of any product or project.

This is the reason, this person is solely responsible for creating and maintaining the product backlog.

Here is a brief list of responsibilities:

  1. Creates and manages the product backlog
  2. Prioritizes the features
  3. Ensures the product backlog is visible to everyone
  4. Ensures the team understand what is required
  5. Responsible for maximising ROI

Learn more about the Product Owner roles and responsibilities, Get certified with our CSPO Training.

Let’s talk about the next role now, which is:

Scrum Master

Scrum Master is the person who ensures that the team is working well together, that impediments to progress are quickly removed, and that the team is moving efficiently towards its goal.

Scrum Master is another important role, majorly responsible for handling “How to build”.

If we talk about one of the major responsibilities of the Scrum Master, is to make sure everyone understands and follows the Scrum process.

Here is a brief list of responsibilities:

  1. Understanding the Scrum Framework
  2. Educating everyone on the easy implementation of Scrum framework
  3. Making sure all Scrum ceremonies takes place
  4. Reviewing progress and removing impediments
  5. Ensuring a good relation between the team and the product owner
  6. Protecting the team from outer distractions

Now, coming back to the original question, Can we combine both the roles?

Can product owner and scrum master be the same person?

If I ask this question to a group of corporate professionals, majority of them will say No.

Now, let us understand, why is that?

As mentioned by Mike Cohn, “In the vast majority of times, I’ve seen this done, the results have been disappointing. Not only does combining these roles put a lot of power in one person’s hand, but it also creates confusion for both team members and then Scrum Master/Product Owner hybrid. A certain amount of tension should exist between these roles” 

Both the roles are very powerful. If we ever think of combining both the roles, this tension gets removed.

As mentioned above, if we closely look at the responsibilities both the roles handle, combining them would create a contradiction in the mind of the person handling both the roles.

For example, if we talk about maximising the ROI, Product Owner would always want more, more, and more features to be implemented as fast as possible.

However, one of the roles of Scrum Master is to shield the team from outer interferences, as well as letting the Scrum process and ceremonies going on at the same time.

This makes a contradiction in the mind of the person handling both the roles.

If we think in terms of general scenario, why the Scrum Framework have only 3 roles?

Product Owner, Scrum Master and the Team.

This is because all the roles are the needs of the project and have their own special importance. Combining the roles is not recommended and might lead to product/project failures and other problems. To know more about Product Owner roles one has to attend CSPO Certification in Pune.

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