The Product Owner and Scrum Master Brain Transplant! Mwuhahahaha!!!

Imagine you are a Mad Agile Scientist and have a diabolical experiment to conduct - what would happen if you exchanged the brains of a Product Owner and Scrum Master? Mwuhahahaha!!! How would the body of a Product Owner with the brain of a Scrum Master act? And vice versa?

Perhaps the Scrum Master would now treat the team like a backlog? This Scrum Master would be focused on value and maintaining a coaching backlog of team and person improvements. This Scrum Master is refining the team, crafting a group that delivers value.

And perhaps the Product Owner might treat the backlog like a team? Rather than backlog refining, they coach the backlog. They would be focused on nurturing, protecting, and empowering the backlog. The backlog might transform from an irritation into a labor of love.

Although this experiment sounds terrible, this change of perspective might be what you need to reanimate your dead team or backlog.

Join the fun and come learn what horrifying results await!


Outline/Structure of the Talk

2' - Mad Agile Scientist introduction

10 ' - Treat the backlog like a SM

  • Backlog coaching instead of backlog refining
  • Nurture
  • Protect
  • Remove impediments
  • Experiment
  • Conflict resolution
  • Happy

10 ' - Treat the team like a PO

  • Team refining instead of team coaching
  • Backlog of individual and team improvements
  • Create and prioritize stories
  • Determine value and AC
  • Have a global DoD
  • Demonstrate
  • Improvement feedback loop

3' - Conclusion


  • The Product Owner can immediately apply soft skills to humanize their backlog
  • The Scrum Master can immediately apply the concept of growing people and teams via a backlog

Presentation History:

Presentation history of this session:

  • XP 2018 Porto
  • Lean Agile Systems Thinking Melbourne 2018
  • Agile2018 San Diego
  • Regional Scrum Gathering Sydney 2018
  • Agile Tauranga
  • Regional Scrum Gathering Durban 2018

Alex's conference and presentation history:

  • Agile Open Northwest 2012 - Session Leader
  • Übermind ÜnConference 2012 - Session Leader
  • MobileUXCamp Seattle 2012 - Session Leader
  • Seattle Kaizen Camp 2012 - Session Leader
  • MAQCon 2012 - Cofounder
  • MobileUXCamp Seattle 2013 - Session Leader
  • Seattle Kaizen Camp 2013 - Session Leader
  • MobileUXCamp Seattle 2014 - Session Leader
  • Seattle Kaizen Camp 2014 - Session Leader
  • Construx Software Executive Summit 2014 - Facilitator
  • Shell Developers Summit 2015 - Keynote Speaker
  • Scrum Coaching Retreat Seattle 2015 - Volunteer Team
  • Un:Conference Canberra 2016 - Session Leader
  • Agile2016 - Volunteer Team
  • UX Australia 2016 - Speaker, Reviewer
  • Agile Coach Camp Sydney 2016 - Session Leader
  • Agile Tour Sydney 2016 - Facilitator
  • StartCon 2016 - Pitch Competitor
  • Global Scrum Gathering San Diego 2017 - Reviewer
  • Global Scrum Gathering Singapore 2017 - Speaker (Rating = 4.5/5)
  • Agile Coach Camp Sydney 2017 - Session Leader
  • Scrum Gathering India 2017 - Speaker, Facilitator, Coaches' Clinic
  • Lean Agile Systems Thinking Canberra 2017 - Organizer, Speaker (Rating = 5/5)
  • Lean Agile Systems Thinking Melbourne 2017 - Speaker (Rating = 5/5), Facilitator (Rating = 4.4/5)
  • Lean Agile Systems Thinking Sydney 2017 - Speaker
  • Scrum Gathering Melbourne 2017 - Speaker (Rating = 2nd highest session at conference), Coaches' Clinic
  • AgileNZ 2017 - Speaker
  • Scrum Gathering South Africa 2017 - Speaker
  • Business and Enterprise Agility Conference India 2017 - Speaker
  • Business Agility Conference NYC 2018 - Facilitator
  • 1st Conference Melbourne 2018 - Facilitator
  • Lean Agile Systems Thinking Sydney 2018 - Speaker
  • Agile Impact Jakarta 2018 - Speaker, Workshop Facilitator
  • Business Agility Conference Sydney 2018 - Reviewer, Facilitator of Facilitators, Organizer
  • Global Scrum Gathering Austin 2019 - Reviewer
  • XP 2019 Montreal - Industry and Practice Co-Chair
  • Agile2019 - Workshop Facilitator
  • Agile India 2019 - Workshop Facilitator, Speaker
  • LAST Melbourne 2019 - Speaker
  • LAST Sydney - Upcoming Workshop Facilitator
  • Scrum South Africa 2019 - Upcoming Speaker

Speaking References:


Learning Outcome

  • Product Owners will learn that they should love their backlogs. This shift in attitude and how they view their work can transform their tedious backlog maintenance into a labor of love. For example, a PO may change the meeting title from "Backlog Refining" to "Backlog Coaching".
  • Scrum Masters will learn that it's OK to push the team to grow. This change in perspective will empower the Scrum Master to focus on value and encouraging the best they can get from their team. For example, a Scrum Master may deploy backlogs targeted to improving skills of team members.
  • All attendees will be introduced to the concept that traditional role paradigms can be shifted.

Target Audience

Scrum Masters, Product Owners, Agile Coaches

Prerequisites for Attendees




schedule Submitted 3 years ago

  • Alex Sloley

    Alex Sloley - Dammit Jim, I’m an Agile Coach, not a Doctor!

    25 Mins

    Just what exactly does an Agile Coach do? Coaches may vary in their response to this question. I would like to think that most Agile Coaches, with some variation, would be fairly consistent in how we perceive our role. However, some companies or orgs or people probably interpret the role of the Agile Coach in ways that coaches never intended.

    Let’s explore some of the things that Agile Coaches have been asked to do! Are these antipatterns? Doing what needs to be done? This session will delve into the topic of the role of the Agile Coach and highlight potential challenges and possible solutions.

  • Tyler Gale

    Tyler Gale - From pockets of awesome to organisational agility at the Australian Taxation Office

    25 Mins

    Creating "pockets of awesome" agility in an organisation during an agile transformation is difficult, but how do you progress that awesomeness across the entire organisation? In this presentation, Tyler Gale will share how he moved from tribe level agile coaching towards applying agile strategically across the Australian Taxation Office to create an organisation of agility.

  • Alex Sloley

    Alex Sloley - Liberating Structures... 36 tried and true facilitation techniques to amp up your org's collaboration

    50 Mins

    The communication tools of Liberating Structures will teach you how to facilitate the discussions your org needs. I am going to demonstrate how to use these techniques in the workshop. And all the attendees are going to be fully immersed and ready to wield their new knowledge the very next day at work.

    Come learn how to help your team(s), org(s), and company(ies)!!!

    For more information, watch my video at

    A version of this workshop that was presented at Agile Tour Sydney 2016 is at