When Should the Product Owner Accept User Stories?

Get the skinny on when to accept user stories as a Product Owner in a Scrum Team.


When is the right time for a Product Owner to accept user stories so they can be moved to “Done?”

It’s a good question, and one that pops up every now and then in Scrum Teams. The Scrum Guide, that sacred document that is meant to guide us all, does not give explicit guidance on this point. It’s a gray area left open for interpretation by the team.

Even so, there are a few common practices, and if you care to read on, I’ll touch on them in this guide.

Option #1: During the Sprint Review, as a one-time activity

Typically, the Product Owner accepts the user stories during the Sprint Review event, when the Developers on the team present the outcomes of their work. They demonstrate what they’ve accomplished, and the Product Owner decides whether or not to accept it. But, as with most things in life, it’s not always that cut and dried.

Option #2: During the Sprint itself, as an ongoing activity

Whether this will work for a given Scrum Team or not comes down to how closely the Product Owner works with the Developers on her team. If they collaborated on the stories during the Sprint, she might accept them as they come — as an ongoing activity.

The Product Owner, after all, is not just a gatekeeper, doling out approval or rejection like some kind of literary editor. No, the Product Owner is a member of the Scrum Team, available to give clarity about and prioritization of the work the Developers, doing all that she can to ensure that this work aligns with the sprint goals and product vision.

In such Scrum Teams, the acceptance of user stories is not a one-time event, but rather an ongoing process. The Product Owner and the Developers work together, iterating, refining, and completing the stories as they go. The Product Owner is not simply a passive observer, but an active participant in the delivery process.

It’s a delicate balance, Scrum.

Each member of the team has their role to play, and it’s up to the team as a whole to navigate the gray areas, to interpret the Scrum Guide, and to make decisions that will lead to the successful development of the product.

It’s not always easy — and there are seldom clear-cut answers. But that’s the beauty of the Scrum framework, isn’t it? The team is a living, breathing organism, constantly evolving and adapting to the ever-changing landscape of customers’ needs and the product’s development.

By Dim Nikolov

Jack of all trades and master of none. Dim is a Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) and Certified Scrum Master (CSM). He has a decade of experience as a stakeholder, member, leader, and coach for agile teams.