The Product Owner in a Sprint Retrospective

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.

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Mike Cohn

About the Author

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 as well as the Better User Stories video course. Mike is a founding member of the Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance and can be reached at If you want to succeed with agile, you can also have Mike email you a short tip each week.

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