The Product Owner in a Sprint Retrospective

The following was originally published in Mike Cohn's monthly newsletter. If you like what you're reading, sign up to have this content delivered to your inbox weeks before it's posted here.

I've decided we should kick all the testers out of sprint retrospectives. We don't need them. They aren't really part of the team, anyway. They think differently and their issues aren't really the same issues faced by the real team.

How'd that sound? It was hard to even type so hopefully it took you pretty far aback.

However, I occasionally hear exactly that same message except about product owners. I can't think of a single good reason why a team would want to hold a retrospective without the product owner present. I can think of many bad reasons why they may want to--but each of those should be the topic of a retrospective!

If you're tempted to run a sprint retrospective without your product owner, I strongly suggest you think about why. Product owners are full, first-class team members. It's critical that they participate in retrospectives and they are as open as everyone else to hearing things they can do to improve. Teams that don't include their product owner tend to suffer from us vs. them thinking that is almost always harmful to the project.

I hope your next retrospective is successful. To help that happen, make sure the product owner is there.



About the Author

As the founder of Mountain Goat Software, Mike Cohn specializes in helping companies adopt and improve their use of agile processes and techniques to build extremely high-performance teams. He is the author of User Stories Applied for Agile Software Development, Agile Estimating and Planning, and Succeeding with Agile. Mike is a founding member of theĀ Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance. He is also the founder of, an online agile training website. He can be reached at or connect with Mike on Google+.