Sprint Retrospective: with or without the Product Owner?

We have a Scrum team consisting of a Scrum Master, a Product Owner and the Development team. The Sprint Review has just ended and the team is about to enter the room to start the Sprint Retrospective. But the Product Owner does not follow. He is told (by the rest of the team) that the retrospective should be conducted by the Dev Team only and facilitated by the Scrum Master.


Short answer: NO. HELL NO. Darth agrees.


Long answer: Let’s have a look at the Scrum Guide: “The Sprint Retrospective is an opportunity for the Scrum Team to inspect itself and create a plan for improvements to be enacted during the next Sprint.” That’s right. The Scrum Team, not the Dev Team. Who is part of the Scrum Team? The Scrum Master, the Dev Team and of course the Product Owner. Let’s have a look at some common excuses.

  • Yes, OK, we know what the Scrum Guide says. But our Product Owner has no time/doesn’t want to join the retrospective. 25uar1

This is a typical “smell”. The Product Owner is an important role in the Scrum framework. A disengaged Product Owner can quickly become an impediment in the team’s quest for self-improvement. Did I say impediment? The Scrum Master has to tackle this. Talk to the Product Owner, coach him and he still rejects the idea of joining the retrospective, make the situation transparent (and yes, escalation might be part of this)

  • We feel uncomfortable with the Product Owner around. After all the retrospective is an opportunity for the Dev Team to behave more freely within a safe environment, where the presence of the Product Owner will not intimidate them. 25ubdx

The absence of trust is another typical smell. Why is the Dev Team not comfortable with the presence of the Product Owner? Isn’t the Product Owner a member of the Scrum team? Can the roots of the problem be found in a false implementation of Scrum? Does the Product Owner’s behaviour intimidate the Dev Team? If that’s the case, how can these issues be addressed and solved if there is no Product Owner present? Keep in mind that the focus in Scrum is the delivery of a product increment. How can the efforts be streamlined and enhanced if the Product Owner is excluded from one of the most important inspect and adapt events of the Scrum framework?

  • This silent agreement between Dev Team and Product Owner that the Scrum Master will update the Product Owner on the retrospective’s results.25ubnx

<irony> A great idea to remove communication barriers, increase transparency, get fast and direct feedback and avoid proxies </irony>



The Sprint Retrospective is (imho) the most important event of the Scrum framework. Even if I am a fan of solving issues immediately and not waiting until the retrospective, it is the time where the whole team sits down together and discuss how the Sprint went in terms of people technology and tools. It is an “official” chance for the Scrum Team to update the Definition of Done, which is used as an input for the upcoming Sprint Planning along with the rest of the improvement ideas suggested by the Scrum Team. In short, an important Scrum event, which should be attended by the whole team.


Scrum on.


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