Resolving disputes between the PM and PO

One of my PMs is in charge of a product whose PO was previously the PM. Conflicts about their obligations have, needless to say, arisen.

Some incidents took place like:

  • PO updates sprints with new features without consulting the product manager

  • PO regularly discusses the product’s future with the PM based on his previous roadmap and becomes aggressive when changes are proposed.

  • Instead of consulting with PM first, PO presents solution concepts and recommendations to the CEO.

  • CEO bypasses PM and speaks with PO directly to prioritize the development of favorite projects (this is a bad precedent that exists across all the product teams)

Any suggestions on how to have them collaborate more effectively?


Because of this, the roles shouldn’t be different. There are no advantages, only inefficiencies, and I can’t see how this would lead to effective work.

If you can’t change the organizational structure, create a RACI document for your team’s duties and responsibilities and receive approval from the PO, PM, and someone in a leadership position in the department where your team works.

In this situation, I feel compelled to make the observation that only one person should be identified under the Responsible column for each item in this document.

Well, that’s what I feel.


What kind of relationship between a product manager and owner is considered “best practice”? Is the PO supposed to prioritize the backlog in a way that would help the PM reach his or her objectives? It seems like the PM could streamline this process by simply managing the backlog directly. This would also eliminate any potential for misunderstandings in the additional layer of communication.


The PM supposed to be upper than the PO in the org hierarchy , isn’t it? Which means, that this guy was demoted.

It actually seems like PO is just trying to move things forward. If the PM isn’t taking the initiative to make the moves and start executing, it’s difficult to blame the player. This guy deserves it for breaking the chain of command. If I had a 1 to 1 advantage on this jerk, I’d rip him a new one.

Overall, the PM need to be paying attention to the PO’s actions and acting on them if they are actually better ones.


@DavidMercy, in some companies they are equal with their own promotion tracks.


So weird to me. PO is such an outdated concept to me …


Why so? PM cannot manage requirements or roadmap towards devs. Who is going to manage backlog?


The PM can and does it in many companies.


So does PO. Both roles are created for a purpose in Agile. Even in many companies senior devs plays as scrum master and dev lead because company cannot pay for 2 persons.


Why is the PO role seen with such hostility? Organizations whose PMs do both responsibilities are perpetually stressed out and whine about not having enough time for PM-related tasks. That is why scrum masters and dev managers stand up to the plate in this situation, you are correct. Also, it makes sense if the product is big and has plenty of moving parts. The PO role won’t disappear any time soon, which is why there is a separation between the PM and PO roles today. For individuals who wish to be a PO, there is essentially an entire career.


I agree to that. All of these roles were established for a reason; although appearing redundant, they are not. Ask any person how much stress and how many hours of labor they put in each day while juggling two roles.

In some places, I have also seen recent graduates serving as PM and PO, which I find strange, but it is a completely different story.


Because it’s an anti-pattern.

The function and role has been product management since the 1960s when computers were first being commercialized.

People read some scrum docs once and thought… ooh, new role let’s chuck it into the mix and see how that goes.


A product manager’s primary responsibilities include overseeing the requirements and roadmaps for engineers. This PO nonsense has really gotten to me. In Scrum, it’s a role rather than a job title.


Indeed, but…

In terms of what features/Stories make it onto the Product Backlog and what sequence they should be executed/delivered, the PO is regarded as being ultimately responsible for the Product. The PO “role” (which is not a job title) prioritizes one backlog and manages one team. With SAFe, there will be a CPO (Chief PO), who in this instance would likely be the PM, if there are numerous teams working on the product. Yet, I would anticipate that the PM (Job Title) would serve as the PO (job) for a single team product.

According to the current description, it appears that there haven’t been any clear agreements regarding the roles, therefore I can’t identify any obvious “fault” with either the PM or the PO (except maybe the CEO being clear about the responsibilities). It would be comparable to designating one person as the “captain of the ship” and another as the “end responsible for the ship.” unsolvable issue in the making.


The selection of the product manager, in my opinion, was not well considered. It might even lack the proper understanding of the value a PM can offer. It may be a vanity position because it appears that the CEO is the real issue, not the team, as the CEO should be trusted to implement his top-down feature factory requirements. What steps is your PM taking to address it? What about the PM?


Junior PMs spend less time with customers and more time with the engineering team. As soon as the Sr PM and SDM have largely sorted out the functionality, hang out with the devs and write killer user stories.

Senior PMs exclusively operate at the feature/epic level and spend more time with customers.

or Senior PM owns the entire product or a large feature/unit of the large product from end to end, while Junior PM completes full end to end for a smaller feature/unit for the product.


Ah, thanks @ShiyaoLiu! Senior PMs and junior PMs. Totally agree three layers make little sense.

The last para is really what an APM role should be, not the prior two. And Sr PMs can just be PMs on product scopes with the same complexity as an APM but with more maturity in the role. Super-Senior PMs or GPMs however… sure, definitely larger scope and more cross-cutting product areas.


Whoever made the decision to demote a PM to a PO under another PM really set this up for failure. People are complicated and power dynamics can be very tricky to manage.

The PM should find his/her own way, but if the CEO does not respect his/her role, then it is simply a hopeless chaos. The structure of responsibilities should come from firstly the top.



  1. The PO got demoted because they didn’t have the chops to make it as a PM or asked to be a product owner because there was a skill gap they felt they needed to fill or a title/function they wanted.
  2. The PO still thinks they are the PM but doesn’t execute the outward functions of a PM and holds onto their roadmap as the only source of truth, or
  3. PM has not been empowered by the organization to do their role, or
  4. PM doesn’t have the skills necessary to fulfil the role.

It sounds to me like a bit of 1 & 2 from your description.

Consider either:

  1. Clarifying the roles and responsibilities.
  2. The PM focuses outward. Roadmap, Strategy, Customers, and build out PRD/Epics for the PO to break down and prioritize with the team.
  3. Have the PO focus inwards to manage priority, agile, etc.
  4. Or get rid of one and expand the remit of the other.

IMO the product owner role is just another way of saying, delivery manager/backlog administrator.


It is true @EvaRichardson. The previous PM struggled with managing stakeholders and the frequency of meetings, and eventually asked to return to his previous position. But, he is currently having trouble letting go of control and is ghosting the new employee.

I had thought that they would work things out in time, but over the past several months, it has gotten worse and resulted in some physical altercations.

Even without this dynamic, it can be difficult in PM/PO interactions to ensure that they are in agreement regarding designs before they are sent to the development team. This is why we are attempting to clarify roles and duties as you mentioned.