The Product Owner, is a Coach

Hello my friends. Yes, maybe you feel strange with this title... exactly this concept, is what I want to share with you today.

Until today (year 2022) is still difficult for many people to understand that, a Scrum Master is a "coach" role, and that Coaching (ontological, systemic) is the main competence to have for a senior scrum master. If that is difficult, imagine how difficult will be to explain, that the Product Owner is also a Coach. And many others will react by thinking like:

  • common! this is about money! this is business!
  • mindset, self-organization and more "blah blah blah"
  • mambo jambo! 
  • okey, another smoke seller

Like Lennon said in his immortal song: 

"you may think I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one"

On our last post, we review the certification processes... now I'm exploring the Product Owner certification by Scrum.org. 

And I will try to explain you why, I understand, the Product Owner is a Coach. But not only based on my ideas, but also into the community and the golden standards of Scrum.org, which I learnt during the certification process.


As I told you, this exploration is a box full of surprises. And many of mine assumptions and conclusions I made through years, were confirmed; many others not. This is one really hard to explain, because the PO accountability is usually confused with a Project Manager, Product Manager, Team Lead... some kind of a Boss with hiring and firing power, or usually as a "product expert", who's authority is his own knowledge and experience. 

Let's check first "what is not" a Product Owner. And later on, we will check why it's a Coach profile.

Regarding scrum.org, these are the typical PO anti-patterns:

As usual, the typical misunderstand about agility, is the PO profile (to not call it role). 

"The clerk" is the typical "pizza boy", that will bring you everything you ask for, if you are a stakeholder. Specially if you are above him in the command line or hierarchy. 

Similar to this, we can find the "Story writer". This PO believes that his job is to write user stories. 

The "manager" and the "project manager" stereotypes, are just inheritance from the old school. These people are just maintaining old practices (like controlling and reporting). Those are like "supervisors" or "vigilantes".

Maybe the most dangerous anti-pattern for a Product Owner, is the "subject matter expert". This profile, believes that he or she is the "truth owner", and do not accepts other opinions, innovations or proposals. Its expertise, provides "authority".  This profile could become toxic, and dangerous, by disrupting all conversations and ideas flow. Reducing the space for learning, brainstorming and collaboration. 

In this case, is recommended, that the "experts" should be the Product Owner's assistants and advisors, and not to sit in the PO chair.  

The "gate keeper" is the typical PO, that monopolize the flow of conversations and interactions. Becoming the single point of contact with the developers.

All these profiles has in common, a waste of time and effort, in irrelevant tasks and duties, and a danger: to not focus on the real accountability, which is the decision making, the innovation and the collaboration.  

Good? ok, where are the good ones?

Product Owner as a motivator 

When a PO is describing a vision, it not only leads, but also inspires, motivates and creates the space for commitment. 

Active Listening 

Conversations facilitator

Emotional intelligence

Evidence based decisions

Product Owner as a motivator: the visionary

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