The Product Owner and Scrum Master Brain Transplant! Mwuhahahaha!!!

Imagine you are a Mad Agile Scientist and have a diabolical experiment to conduct – what would happen if you exchanged the brains of a Product Owner and Scrum Master? Mwuhahahaha!!! How would the body of a Product Owner with the brain of a Scrum Master act? And vice versa?

Perhaps the Scrum Master would now treat the team like a backlog? This Scrum Master would be focused on value and maintaining a coaching backlog of team and person improvements. This Scrum Master is refining the team, crafting a group that delivers value.

And perhaps the Product Owner might treat the backlog like a team? Rather than backlog refining, they coach the backlog. They would be focused on nurturing, protecting, and empowering the backlog. The backlog might transform from an irritation into a labor of love.

Although this experiment sounds terrible, this change of perspective might be what you need to reanimate your dead team or backlog.

Join the fun and come learn what horrifying results await!
* NOTE – I am proposing this as a virtual session since I am unlikely to be able to travel by then ūüôĀ *

Audience Level: Learning
Room Setup: No Preference
Keywords: PO, SM, Scrum, Coaching, Facilitating, Backlog, Team

Information for Program Team:


This session addresses the culture of the team and how people work together on an agile team. This includes how people identify themselves in the roles they play, what kind of work they do, and how they act in those roles. On Scrum teams we emphasize cross-functionality, and yet we still have 2 specialized roles that play very specific parts in the team, the Scrum Master and the Product Owner. This session examines the typical behaviors and work of an SM and PO, and yet twists the typical role representation and asks the attendees to consider how their roles might be played out with different values and attitudes. This session stretches the typical role definitions of the SM and PO and embraces true team cross-functionality.

Product Owners and Scrum Masters tend to be natural leaders on Scrum teams. Certainly they tend to play leadership roles. This session will teach these leaders that they can stretch their roles in ways that they haven’t considered. And if they can model the behavior where it’s acceptable to embrace diversity of roles and activities on a team, then the team will embrace that philosophy and help build a culture and team where this diversity of thought can be embraced and celebrated.

Audience: Scrum Masters, Product Owners, Agile Coaches

Pre-requisites: none

Materials needed: Large format display like a projector and associated laptop video connection for display of slide deck

5′ – Mad Agile Scientist introduction

10 ‘ – Treat the backlog like a SM

Backlog coaching instead of backlog refining
Remove impediments
Conflict resolution

10 ‘ – Treat the team like a PO

Team refining instead of team coaching
Backlog of individual and team improvements
Create and prioritize stories
Determine value and AC
Have a global DoD
Improvement feedback loop

5’ – Conclusion

Remainder of total timebox – Q&A


The Product Owner can immediately apply soft skills to humanize their backlog
The Scrum Master can immediately apply the concept of growing people and teams via a backlog

Sample presentation video:

Learning Outcomes:

Product Owners will learn that they should love their backlogs. This shift in attitude and how they view their work can transform their tedious backlog maintenance into a labor of love. For example, a PO may change the meeting title from “Backlog Refining” to “Backlog Coaching”.
Scrum Masters will learn that it’s OK to push the team to grow. This change in perspective will empower the Scrum Master to focus on value and encouraging the best they can get from their team. For example, a Scrum Master may deploy backlogs targeted to improving skills of team members.

All attendees will be introduced to the concept that traditional role paradigms can be shifted.

Presentation history of this session:

XP 2018 Porto

Conference and presentation history:

Agile Open Northwest 2012 – Session Leader
√úbermind √únConference 2012 – Session Leader
MobileUXCamp Seattle 2012 – Session Leader
Seattle Kaizen Camp 2012 – Session Leader
MAQCon 2012 – Cofounder
MobileUXCamp Seattle 2013 – Session Leader
Seattle Kaizen Camp 2013 – Session Leader
MobileUXCamp Seattle 2014 – Session Leader
Seattle Kaizen Camp 2014 – Session Leader
Construx Software Executive Summit 2014 – Facilitator
Shell Developers Summit 2015 – Keynote Speaker
Scrum Coaching Retreat Seattle 2015 – Volunteer Team
Un:Conference Canberra 2016 – Session Leader
Agile2016 – Volunteer Team
UX Australia 2016 – Speaker, Reviewer
Agile Coach Camp Sydney 2016 – Session Leader
Agile Tour Sydney 2016 – Facilitator
StartCon 2016 – Pitch Competitor
Global Scrum Gathering San Diego 2017 – Reviewer
Global Scrum Gathering Singapore 2017 – Speaker (Rating = 4.5/5)
Agile Coach Camp Sydney 2017 – Session Leader
Scrum Gathering India 2017 – Speaker, Facilitator, Coaches’ Clinic
Lean Agile Systems Thinking Canberra 2017 – Organizer, Speaker (Rating = 5/5)
Lean Agile Systems Thinking Melbourne 2017 – Speaker (Rating = 5/5), Facilitator (Rating = 4.4/5)
Lean Agile Systems Thinking Sydney 2017 – Speaker
Scrum Gathering Melbourne 2017 – Speaker (Rating = 2nd highest session at conference), Coaches’ Clinic
AgileNZ 2017- Speaker
Scrum Gathering South Africa 2017 – Speaker
Business and Enterprise Agility Conference India 2017 – Speaker
Business Agility Conference NYC 2018 – Facilitator

Speaking References:

Jeremie Benazra –
Simon Bennett –
Steve McConnell –
Damian Troselj –
Ed Wong –