Demoted from Team Leader to Product Owner

Demoted from Team Leader to Product Owner

Unhealthy half-knowledge often leads to pejorative statements about roles in agile product development and not infrequently this occurs in combination with a suboptimal implementation of agile. In the process, it happens that a Product owner is demoted to a simple penpusher and thus makes him appear as a less attractive role in the agile process.

In various companies a “great idea” suddenly forces all to immediately change everything into Agile. No, starting small and then gradually letting agile grow is out of the question. An Agile Transformation is being driven forward on a grand scale and entire teams of hundreds are being „snatched“ from the traditional organisation and pressed into agile structures.
Team leaders are „transformed“ into Product Owners or Scrum Masters, department heads are made Product Managers or Release Train Engineers (RTEs).

Such a „transformed“ person does not feel at all comfortable in their new role. Some might even feel degraded; belittled in esteem.

The Product Owner is accountable ….

… for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Teams, according to the official Scrum Guide. In order to be able to fulfill this responsibility, he must also be equipped with the decision-making power with regard to the final design of the product.

Even in a scaled environment, such as SAFe, where there may be one or more product managers, it is the product owners of the Scrum teams who are primarily responsible for maximizing value.

They are the ones who put the customer at the centre – keyword “customer-centricity” – and put themselves in the customer’s shoes in order to define the best solution for them: Keyword “design-thinking”. They are instrumental in determining the exact design of a milestone to be implemented.

Whereas the product manager …

… usually views the solution from a different altitude, more high level. Product management defines the rough direction in which the solution should develop. It defines the product strategy, creates a vision for it and agrees on the roadmap together with the product owners.

And then there are Scrum Master and RTE …

Analogous to the importance and significance of the Product Owner and Product Manager roles, the holders of the Scrum Master and RTE (Release Train Engineer) roles are also important key players when it comes to successfully developing a product. In this article, however, I do not want to go into detail about the role of the method experts, but rather continue to focus on the Product Owner and Product Manager.


The path from conventional structures of a line or matrix organisation into agility would not be so difficult in terms of role distribution if the agile roles were perceived as the attractive tasks and responsibilities they represent.

Product owners and product managers play a major role in ensuring that the product developed by their team – or by the Agile Release Train – is perceived as valuable and important by customers and users.

Is it difficult to find volunteers for the role of product owner or product manager in your organisation? Are you on the verge of an Agile transformation and not sure how to make the organisational and hierarchical switch to Agile? Contact us.

And transforming from a traditional organisation to agile product development is no longer such a big problem.

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