I was chatting with a manager who was once a PO on a team I coached many years ago. This is only my best memory of the conversation (I didn’t record it at the time). I may have slightly embellished it with snippets from conversations that followed over the course of days or weeks, but I try to be faithful.
One day she took me aside and asked what she should be doing to accelerate the team and get more work pushed through.
“Nothing? But I thought that I’m supposed to be getting maximum work and speeding up the team…?”
“Nope. Your job as PO is to maximize the value of the work, not the quantity of the work. Given that they’re doing roughly the same amount of work each week (barring emergencies and vacations), your job is to make sure that what they are working on is the most valuable work that they could do that week – that it is impactful and useful.”
The Product Owner is accountable for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team. – the scrum guides
“I was told that I’m supposed to push for more, and there was a healthy tension between PO pushing for more and SM pushing back.”
“Yeah. That’s nonsense. You’re all on the same team and should be all working for the same results. If you push people beyond their capacity to work, they’ll turn in crappy work and that won’t be the best value for time spent. Don’t do that.”
“OMG! That’s GREAT! I was so worried because I don’t know how to make people work harder. All I have to do is deal with content and not execution?”
“That’s incredibly good news. I just felt a lot of stress roll off of my shoulders. That’s great! I can totally do this job!”
And she did. Soon she was known for being the best PO in the building, having the best teams, having solid relationships with her teams, and making wise decisions.
Her career as a product manager was launched there and has progressed to this day.
Your job is not to fight your team. You’re all supposed to work together on this thing.