BONUS: Jeff Patton shares his view on the Product Owner role, and what Scrum Masters can do to help

In this episode, we explore some of the critical lessons Jeff learned in his own career as a Product Owner. We review the missing aspects in most Product Owner role implementations and discuss the tools that have helped Jeff as a Product Owner first, and later his students.

The first steps of Jeff’s journey as a Product Owner

Read on for the detailed show notes, and all the links

When Jeff was starting out as a Product Owner he quickly learned a lesson that has stayed with him since. That Product Owners need to keep many stakeholders happy, not just the customer. When working with Kent Beck at a company he understood that Agile Software Development approaches were missing many aspects that are critical for successful product development.

One of the key insights is that the one-person-that-knows-everything implementation of the Product Owner role is not the right one. It leads to missing business and technology focus, which are critical for companies to survive and thrive. Jeff names the missing piece of Agile Software Development “Product Thinking”.

Product Thinking in practice

Product Thinking is a generic term. We need a more concrete example. Jeff shares the story of the Nordstrom eyewear design sprint.

See the video below:

We talk about the concept of a design sprint (a book by Jake Knapp an ex-Google employee), and that – sometimes – the increment is not releasable software, but a step in the learning curve that the team and the company need to go through.

And it all starts with the recognition that we much more likely to build the wrong thing than to build the right thing wrong. Which will be a controversial statement for many companies out there that focus on technology first, and everything else last.

There’s a problem with Scrum that we need to talk about

As Jeff puts it: “there’s this assumption that the people that build the product are a ‘vendor’”. You bring them requirements and they focus on building only what they are asked for. And this leads to focusing on plowing through the backlog instead of understanding the stakeholders and how to make them happy!

This “maximization of work” approach is in stark contrast with the “Simplicity” Agile principle: Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.

But that’s the least problem we have. Scrum teams, Jeff asks, must focus on the learning approaches that help them find what is the right thing to deliver. Involving customers, but also making the team and the business “happy”, not just the customer.

For people who want to know more, Jeff recommends the following resources:

Story Mapping, a tool all Scrum Masters and Product Owners should be familiar with

The Backlogs are also a tool that has been severly misused by Scrum teams. In this episode with Jeff Patton, we explore what he has learned about working successfully with Product Backlogs. And it starts by recognizing that we have better tools such as the User Story Map, which Jeff wrote about earlier in his career (Check here for a facilitation guide that will support you when you organize your next User Story Map workshop).

In this segment, we explore how we can divide the Product Backlog so that we don’t get lost in the details. Listen in to learn some important, and simple techniques to help your Product Owner focus on what matters, instead of spending all of their time managing detailed tactical items.

About Jeff Patton

Jeff Patton is the glue that connects good product management and strategy, lean user experience and agile delivery practices together. He has authored numerous articles, essays, and the story mapping book: “User Story Mapping.” An independent consultant with a unique teaching and speaking style, he uses hand-drawings and engaging storytelling to share his passion for product design.
He’s one of the most vocal advocates of holding the product development process as a holistic, user-centered approach.

You can link with Jeff Patton on LinkedIn and connect with Jeff Patton on Twitter. You can also find Jeff’s writings and upcoming Product Owner courses in his site, at http://www.jpattonassociates.com/.

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