The Scrum Guide doesn’t talk about the role of managers. So does that mean that one day we have managers, and then as soon as we begin an agile transformation, they suddenly disappear? Of course not. So what do we do with them? Many organizations use managers to direct the work of their reports so it could seem reasonable to assign these managers as Product Owners. I can see the logic in this, but a younger me would have opposed this with extreme prejudice. A younger me would use all my persuasive might emphasizing how this isn’t the right thing to do. But why? What’s wrong with it?
Who here just started a new job? Or maybe you’re about to start a new job? This is the situation I recently faced. It’s stressful, and it was important to me that I make a strong, lasting, and positive first impression. In fact, let’s talk about that today, but before we do, I’d like to give a big shout out to rands. A decade ago, I ran into his blog. It was the first blog I ever followed, and his advice in Ninety Days is something I reread before I start any new job. In it, he suggests that the interview continues through the first ninety days on the job. I agree, and I can relate with his piece of advice here:
I was happy to hear that many of you enjoyed the Product Owner tips I offered in my previous blog post so I thought I’d jot down a couple more today. If you’d like to read my previous Product Owner tips, you can find it here. So let’s get to it.
I spent several years working in the gaming industry, and it was from a Product Owner there that I learned an odd but effective prioritization technique. At the end of sprint planning, he’d point to the sprint backlog and say, “See that story on top? That’s the only thing I’m concerned that gets done this sprint. Nothing else.” After a day or two, that story would be done, and at the next stand up, he’s point to the sprint backlog and say, “Great work! Now see that top story? That’s the only thing I’m concerned that gets done this sprint. Nothing else.”
Product Owners have a tough job. They’re required to take a swarm of opinions and coalesce those opinions into a single, unified vision. Undoubtedly, some stakeholders won’t agree with that vision, and they must invest time and energy in soothing the disgruntled. Further, if a Product Owner is thinking too far forward, the team gets restless because they have questions and the Product Owner is locked away in a conference room. The balance is unforgiving, and frankly, I don’t envy the role of the Product Owner. Most days, I write to the Scrum Master or agile coach but not today. Today, I want to share two tips with our Product Owners. I have a ton more Product Owner tips, but let’s start here and see what happens next. Let’s get started.
Opinions about backlogs are like assholes
Everyone has one, and most of them stink. Let me explain: