Product Owner and the Daily Stand-up

Should the Product Owner attend the Daily Stand-ups?

Everybody who has worked in a Scrum team would have an opinion about it.  The Scrum Guide tells us the following:

The Scrum Master enforces the rule that only Development Team members participate in the Daily Scrum.

This is interesting.  This is how I interpret it: If the Product Owner attends the Daily Scrum, they shouldn’t actively participate.  They should let the Development Team do their thing.

Personally, I don’t like such constraints.  I like those meetings where everybody present in the room is enthusiastic about the work the team is doing, has an opinion on things and is willing to participate.  But Stand-ups are different.  And I can see the wisdom in having the Product Owner not participate in the Daily Stand-up.

Here is why.

In many Scrum teams, I have observed that the Daily Stand-up turns into a status update meeting.  And that’s bad, specially in a setting where some members of the Development Team are external contractors.  The Product Owner really represents their client.  In their minds, the Daily Stand-up is about keeping the client informed on the progress of the project.  It becomes a daily ritual for them where they tell the client “Look, I am doing what you are paying me for.”

And when that happens, your Stand-ups become useless.

The objective of Daily Stand-up is to come up with a plan for the next 24 hours.  It is a plan that should increase the probability that the team will meet the Sprint goals.  Now, a Product Owner doesn’t get to tell the team how they should meet their objectives.  A Scrum team is self-organizing: they choose how best to accomplish their targets.  And that should be the focus of Daily Stand-ups.

I would therefore argue that anything that distracts the team from meeting the Sprint goals should be avoided.  If the presence of Product Owner turns the Daily Stand-up into something else, I would avoid that.

But then, this doesn’t necessarily happen in every team.

Sometimes you get to work with Product Owners who really understand Scrum (although that’s rare).  They actively try not to distract the team in any way.  Sometimes they choose not to show up for the Stand-ups daily.  They come to the meeting may be twice a week.  I think that’s a good idea.  But if your Product Owner needs help with that, you as a Scrum Master can/must educate them.  This should all be part of the culture of continuous improvement.

The worst thing I have seen is that the team decides to cancel their Daily Stand-up because the Product Owner wasn’t available.

If that happens, I would advise you to send your team on a good Scrum training course!