Product Owner Anti-patterns … Oh My!

I recently came across an article on Product Owner Anti-Patterns, you can find the article at

Here is a partial list of the ones I found relevant:

  • Busy or Missing Product Owner, not being part of the Development Team
  • Expressing the backlog in technical user stories instead of focusing on business-related user stories
  • Writing detailed user stories (no scope for negotiation)
  • Questioning the estimates given by the Development Team
  • Not having a clear acceptance criteria for every story
  • Too large user stories
  • Not questioning the customers while collecting the requirements
  • Not allowing the Development Team to work on Technical Debt
  • Not validating the customer’s idea before implementing the idea
  • Lack of vision on the product being developed
  • Delivering more features than valuable features
  • Not having well-defined prioritization mechanism in delivering user stories
  • Changing priorities or requirements during the Sprint
  • Treating estimates as deadlines
  • Instructing team on what needs to be done, acting as a Manager
  • Task monitoring
  • Consistently changes priorities during the Sprint

I am surprised by how many of these I have experienced, and currently experience in my current software projects.

Of these all, the one that I think is most important to eliminate from your agile process is:

Lack of vision on the product being developed.

It is important that the Development Team, especially a talented one, have a clear understanding of what the product is supposed to be that they are developing.

No one wants to relegated to digital ditch digger, as Markus Blankenship calls it in his article The Trap of Sales Driven Development.

I realize, that in start-ups, or greenfield projects, the vision of the product may be in a state of flux. That is a fact.

An easy way to compensate for this flux in vision is communication.

If the Product Owner is communicating with the Development Team on why direction is changing, independent of whether the Development Team agrees or disagrees with the direction, they will at least understand and appreciate the thought process behind the decision.

I think this quote sums it up best:

Where there is no vision, the people perish – Proverbs 29:18

This is an anti-pattern that is not on the original list, but one I have experienced more than a couple of times:

The CEO, the Product Owner and the Scrum Master are all the same person.

Yikes! More like triple yikes! I could write a book on that one.

What anti-patterns have you experienced in your agile processes?

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