Updated: Mar 2
A good PO will give the team a product backlog with well-defined stories for planning. A great PO understands he can contribute more to the team by spending time with them during the planning session.
A recurring theme in many organizations is that the PO avoids participating in the planning session. When I ask them why I usually receive answers like: "Why do I need to attend? I've already provided all the necessary information in the stories;" and "Do you think I have the time to be at your planning meeting?”. From my perspective and experience, a PO who participates in the planning meetings helps the team achieve better results than they would without his presence.
The main reason the PO must attend the sprint planning meeting is that each user story should be broken into different tasks, considering four mandatory areas that are highly dependent on each other (Scope, Estimate, Priority, and Quality). Half of these activities are set by the PO (Scope and Priority), and the rest are set by the team (Estimate & Quality).
These four areas are reviewed and analyzed continuously through face-to-face conversations between the team and PO during the planning meeting. As part of the review and estimation of the stories, the team will ask questions requiring quick answers from the PO. This allows the meeting to flow and be effective.
The presence of the Product Owner during the planning meeting becomes crucial when the time estimate for a story impacts the original plan of the Product Owner regarding the scope of the sprint (which may prompt him to re-think about the priority and importance of the story).
This collaboration between the PO and the rest of the team is fundamental. It is the difference between a good team and a great team. Unfortunately, it is still very common for a PO to insist that he does not have to participate in the sprint planning meeting. In this case, you can try to use the following strategies:
Ensure the PO understands why his direct participation can make a real difference.
If the PO still insists that he does not need to attend, try to convince him to present the stories and give the team a chance to ask questions.
If the PO still resists freeing his time for the team, refuse to commit to any deliverables.
If the PO is unwilling to make the change, ask management to assign a new one.