How can one Product Owner be enough to work together with multiple teams?

I frequently experience the following scenario in organizations: Each team has one so-called Product Owner (PO) or even several PO-helpers/proxies. These so-called POs are doing a lot of analysis work, and spoon-feeding the requirements to the team. In such organizations, there are typically dependencies between the teams, and of course, the so-called POs coordinate a lot with all the other so-called POs. If you are working in such an organization, you very likely cannot imagine how one single PO can work with up to 8 teams (or even more). “It’s impossible” you might say. The thing is that you have a misguided picture of how the one PO and the teams cooperate.

First of all, the one PO is not slicing and preparing the requirements, neither spoon-feeding the teams. The teams are refining the requirements directly with the stakeholders. The PO only needs to understand the requirements enough to discuss with the stakeholders in order to prioritize those. Furthermore, to reduce the dependencies, your teams need to be able to do end-2-end work (i.e. they are cross-components). There are no more (or only very little) asynchronous dependencies. between Feature Teams. In other words, there is no more waiting for other another team to finish their work first, and therefore there is not much left to coordinate. Even better, the remaining coordination work is done by the teams themselves, there is no need for an external-to-team coordinator. 

Also, the Sprint events are done in a different way. The one PO needs to participate only in a few Sprint events like Sprint Planning 1, overall Product backlog Refinement, product-level Retro, and the Sprint Review. The Sprint Review is done with all teams together e.g. in form of a Sprint Review Bazar. This means there is one event of about 2 h instead of 8 times conducting a one-hour event.

Can you imagine now that in such a set-up, the PO does have time to focus on the business and maximize the ROI for the product?

If you are intrigued by those ideas and want to hear more, feel free to sign up for one of my courses.

How can one Product Owner be enough to work together with multiple teams?
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