Pattern: Team Leader

Original Scrum is very powerful, but the fact that the Product Owner is outside the Scrum Team
can cause problems. We solve these problems by having a Team Leader.


One or more of the following Statements is true:

  1. The Business wants to make sure the Development Team‘s Improvements and Chores get prioritized “against” the Items coming from the Business Owner‘s Value Backlog – the Business doesn’t want the Development Team making these decisions as part of their Self Organization.
  2. The Development Team needs ongoing “tactical” advice – during the Sprint – about what is most important about the Items that are being worked on as part of the Sprint Backlog.
  3. The Items being prioritized from the Stakeholder‘s Value Backlog are not well enough understood for the Team to work on – they need to be Refined before they become appropriate for the Team to work on them.
  4. The Product Owner needs a Point of Contact on the Team to hold Accountable, or answerable, for the Team‘s actions.


There is a Original Scrum Team working on Items being prioritized by a Product Owner external to the Team.


Have a member of the Scrum Team, called the Team Leader, with the following Accountabilities:

• The Team Leader is Accountable to the Product Owner for the prioritization of all the work done by the Scrum Team, including Improvements and Chores,
• The Team Leader is Accountable for Refining the Items coming from the Value Backlog
so that they are Ready for the Team to work on. Note that Refinement includes:

  • decomposing “big” Items into “smaller” Items,
  • extracting sub-Items from Items,
  • improving Items so they are better understood,
  • and so on.

You should be wary of making the Team Leader the same person as the Team Coach, because this could impinge upon the Team Coach‘s “regulatory” responsibilities. This is not a universal truth, but certainly seems true for Scrum Teams doing Software Development.

Additionally, make sure it is understood that the whole Scrum Team is supposed to be a Well- Formed Team (not just the Development Team), so that ScrumMastering and Product Ownership responsibilities belong to the whole b – the Self-Organization is not simply about Development.

Pattern Team Leader

Discussion, including examples:

This is a common pattern, and I’ll just give two simple examples:

  1. In a Restaurant’s Kitchen, we know that the Kitchen’s Value Backlog consists of Food Orders provided by the WaitStaff. Inside the kitchen, however, the Sous Chef is running the show, and is accountable for “the kitchen’s inventory, cleanliness, organization and the ongoing training of the entire staff”1. The Sous Chef prioritizes the work inside the kitchen; when to clean, train, and so on. These Improvements and Chores are added to the Kitchen’s Work Backlog along with the orders coming in.

  2. Workmen working on site have a Foreman who works as the Team Leader. The Business Owner assigns the Job to the Team, but the Foreman works with the Team to divide the Job into sub-Jobs and Tasks, as well as determine what Chores need to be done.

In many writings about Scrum, this Team Leader is referred to as the Proxy Product Owner.


1 See Wikipedia.