Should the Product Owner be included in a sprint retrospective?

I came across this question on Quora recently and couldn’t help but respond, as its a question I deal with pretty regularly. Here is my answer:

Why shouldn’t the product owner be included in a sprint retrospective?

TL;DR: Sometimes its a good idea to invite the PO and sometimes its not. It’s the Scrum Master’s responsibility to invite the right people to the retrospective each time, based on the team’s current impediments.

Long Version: There is no hard and fast rule on who to invite to the retrospective. The right answer will almost certainly change on a retrospective-by-retrospective basis. The right answer also depends on many things:

  1. The relationship between the PO and the team
  2. The relationship between stakeholders and the PO
  3. The relationship between your manager and your team
  4. The current issues that the team faces (are they more technical or more business-oriented?)
  5. And any number of other potential things (sorry to be vague…)

As the facilitator of the Retrospective, it is up to your Scrum Master to structure the Retrospective such that it will lead to continuous improvement. If that means involving key stakeholders, then those stakeholders should be invited. If that means a closed door session for just the core team, then the retrospective should be closed to external participants.

Since Scrum Masters have no hard power, a good Scrum Master would understand the need to seek input from the team, the manager, the PO, and relevant stakeholders in order to build consensus on who to invite each time. A good Scrum Master would build a positive relationship with your manager such that the manager will eventually understand why this flexibility is so important.

Scrum Masters, what do you think? Do you agree that the best answer isĀ it depends?

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