BONUS: Tim Herbig on Lateral Leadership a critical skill for Scrum Masters and Product Owners

Tim was faced with a problem. How to be a leader without any formal power. All Scrum Masters and Product Owners who have felt the responsibility, but not any “line authority” have faced the same problem. You need to help move the project along, but you can’t tell people what to do!

In this episode we explore the concept of Lateral Leadership how it can help you as a Scrum Master or Product Owner.

Tim Herbig is the author of Lateral Leadership a recent book published by Sense and Respond Press.

“Agile requires a radically different approach to leadership”

In the past episode with David Marquet, author of the Leadership book: Turn the Ship Around! we already explored how a different leadership approach can have a positive impact on a team. Tim goes one step further and explains in this episode that responsibility does not always go with authority. The Scrum Master and Product Owner roles are some of the roles where that is visible. Even if “authority” is one of the tools a leader can use, together with Tim we explore what other mechanisms we have for leadership.

Disagree, but commit!

Tim shares a personal story of a moment where he (as the PO) had to get the team to commit to a path forward, but could not use Authority as the tool. The story is not one of success, but rather one of learning. Tim’s story helps to understand one of the most important aspects of lateral leadership: we are free to disagree but need to commit as a team. The team needs to move forward even when there’s no consensus. How good are you at forging commitment even when there’s disagreement?

Tim also shares tips to help get that commitment, even in the face of disagreement.

How we can reach shared decisions and enable collaboration

Collaboration is the action domain of the Scrum Master. We aim to enable and amplify collaboration among team members and with stakeholders. But how can we do that? In this segment, Tim shares a 5 step approach he uses to reach a shared understanding and enable collaboration between team members. The same process can be used to generate the same collaboration between team and stakeholders.

Why do we develop this product?

Working as a PO, Tim faced many situations where the team and the stakeholders did not have a shared understanding of why they were developing the product. He learned to use a specific tool to create that shared product vision: the Mission Briefing, a tool inspired by what Stephen Bungay wrote about in his book: The Art of Action.

How to fight the Ticket-Monkey Product Owner anti-pattern?

In some organizations, the PO is treated as if his role would be that of a Product Backlog Secretary. Tim’s view is that this is an anti-pattern that must be overcome with the help of concrete tools like Objective-Key-Results (OKR’s) and the Mission Briefing.

In this segment, we also refer to the episode with Jeff Patton where we discuss more about the PO role.

The “know-it-all” Product Owner anti-pattern

In other oragnizations, the PO is treated like the person who should know all the answers. In this segment, we explore why this is a problem for the PO, and the team. We also discuss what the PO should do when he feels the “know-it-all” anti-pattern is taking over the relationship with the team and/or stakeholders.

4 indispensable tools Scrum Masters should use when working with Product Owners

In the last segment of this episode, we talk about the relationship between PO and the Scrum Master.

The main advice is to sit down and talk. A technique that we, Scrum Masters use often, and can help develop empathy for the particular situation of the Product Owner.

During those conversations with the Product Owner, try to analyze the factors influencing the PO’s behavior. For example, use the Causal Loop Diagram to create a shared understanding of the factors influencing the PO. You can also use the Agile Peer Canvas, Coaching Conversations and the coaching tool “Powerful Questions” to help develop empathy and understand the Product Owner’s situation.

About Tim Herbig

Tim is a passionate product leader, author and speaker who always aims to enable people so they can build products which make a difference. Currently responsible for Iridion – the leading conversion management platform which is used by more than 1.500 companies around the world. Besides that, Tim has a huge passion (and weakness) for third wave coffee, delicious burgers, and triathlon.

You can link with Tim Herbig on LinkedIn and connect with Tim Herbig on Twitter. You learn more about Tim’s work at his website.

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