As a Product Owner you have one of the most challenging roles in the Scrum Framework. However, even Product Owners have a right to go on a holiday. I meet a lot of Product Owners, Developers and managers in distress when they find out the Product Owner will not be available for the next sprint(s). Or even worst, the Product Owner is ill. The solution is surprisingly simple.
Ideally, as a Product Owner, you would like to have a couple of sprint of ‘ready’ work on the product backlog so for when you get ill or go on a holiday the Developers can continue working and does not come to a complete stop. This practice covers the part where the team can still start a new sprint while you are absent. But how does it work when completing items on the sprint backlog. Who will accept these or is able to make choices on dropping items from the sprint backlog (if necessary)? Yes, ideally this is something the product owner is involved in. But when the product owner is not there the Scrum team needs to figure out another way how to handle this.
Accepting a product backlog items
I have seen teams come up with complex procedures to deal with this, even solutions where a Scrum Master was asked to accept items. What could work if you have another Product Owner who easily can accept the item. However, where do you find a Product Owner who is that quickly up and running on the context and the discussions already held within the Scrum team. This requires some planning upfront.
The solution is in fact stunningly simple. Who is eventually accepting the increment delivered? Yes, the stakeholder. So who other than the product owner can help the team in getting this item done? Yes, the stakeholder or end-user! This person has already been involved in the refinement of the item so when it is clear to the Developers that this is the person to contact they can arrange this themselves or have the Scrum Master facilitate it.
Be aware, that involving a stakeholder that they don’t try to get extra favours done by the Developers. But that doesn’t differ from any other day does it?
Removing or adding items to a sprint.
In short, the same applies to adding items to or removing items from a sprint backlog. Just make sure that the stakeholders are notified and their expectations are well-managed. As a Scrum Master you need to be aware that this actually happens. The order of the product backlog is known so when Developers run into trouble the item which is lowest on the sprint backlog might need to be removed. Let the Developers manage these expectations.
So that’s it, that is all you need to have in place when going on a holiday as a product owner. An ordered Product Backlog and clarity on the stakeholder involved in the item on the Product Backlog. Enjoy your holiday!