Is it ok to have Shared Accountabilities Within Scrum Team? This a common question. In this article we will look at how the three accountabilities work with each other. This will help us to understand implications of same person sharing multiple accountabilities.
The Dragon Boat picture above represents all the 3 accountabilities of Scrum Team. These are, The Developers, Scrum Master and The Product Owner
The rowers represent the developers. Scrum Guide says that “Developers are the people in the Scrum Team that are committed to creating any aspect of a usable Increment.” In other words, these are the people who do the work required to turn the product backlog items in Value.
2-The Product Owner
The person standing behind the rowers has a rudder in hand.He has his eyes on the goal post. This person represents the Product owner. This person decides the direction the boat will take to win. In a similar manner, the product owner is accountable to decide what will bring maximum value to the product. Product Owner works with Developers to and collaborates with them. However, their focus is to manage the product backlog to maximize Value.
3-The Scrum Master
The person sitting in the front of the rowers is the Scrum Master. He is facing the developers. If we look carefully at the picture, we realize that he is drumming. This drumming will give a rhythm to the rowers to row. When the rowers row to the beat, they row more efficiently. The drummer in the picture is leading the rowers by enabling them to work more effectively. In similar manner, the Scrum Master helps the Scrum Team members to work more effectively.
When There Are Shared Accountabilities Within Scrum Team for one person
The diagram shows us that 3 accountabilities within Scrum Team, have distinct focus . Which means, having one person doing more than one accountability within the team is likely to weaken this focus. The Scrum Guide is not prescriptive in nature and does not have a direct recommendation for this. I usually do not find it effective to have one person fulfilling multiple accountabilities. Instead of that if we cannot have a dedicated Scrum Master or a Product Owner because of whatever reasons, it might be a better idea to have the Scrum Master being a Scrum Master for two teams. Similarly, if we cannot have have one Product Owner dedicated to one team, the same person can act as a Product Owner for two teams. Of course, one team can have only one Single Product Owner- One Scrum team cannot have two or more Product Owner.
Scrum Master or Product Owner Taking on the accountabilities of Developers.
In expectational cases, I have seen that a Scrum Master also can take on the accountabilities of Developer in the same Scrum Team. Similarly, sometimes, a Product owner may take on the on the accountabilities of Developer in the same Scrum Team. While this is not ideal, it works in case there are some budget or skills constraints. I have seen this succeed in case of smaller teams. The Scrum Master /Product Owner in this case has to take care to remain available to rest of Scrum Team Members even when pressures of their work as Developer is mounting.
Same person Being Scrum Master as well as Product Owner of Single Scrum Team.
Product Owner and Scrum Masters have very distinct and sometimes opposing focus. Product Owner is focused on building maximum value via the Product. Sometimes Product Owners may tend to push the Developers to deliver early/more. In such a case they may indeed need the help from Scrum Master to coach them. The Scrum Master on the hand, is focused on helping the Scrum Team work more effectively. Scrum Masters usually do not have primary focus on Product Value but in helping the Scrum Team to be more effective. As a result, I do not recommend to have one single person acting as a Scrum Master as well as Product Owner for the same Scrum Team.