Martin Lambert: The weak or lost Product Owner and their impact on the team

From a weak or lost Product Owner to one that cared deeply about the product, we explore some of the critical contrasts between good and not so good PO’s, as well as how Scrum Masters can help them improve.

The Great Product Owner: The Product Owner that cared about the product

When it happens, this Product Owner pattern can really help the team succeed. In this segment we talk about the Product Owner that cared deeply about the product. Made the Vision clear to the team and even if she did not know how to write User Stories (she got help from the Scrum Master), or about “limiting the work planned for the Sprint”, she was ready to learn. We also discuss how Scrum Masters can be really powerful allies for their Product Owners.

The Bad Product Owner: The weak or lost Product Owner

Although Martin has seen several Product Owner anti-patterns (the seagull PO, the absentee PO), the one he wants to highlight is the “weak or lost PO”. This anti-pattern is about the PO being only a mouthpiece for someone else, having little insight into what he asks from the team, and letting the team often without answers to their questions.

In this segment, we also talk about how Scrum Masters can help these Product Owners overcome their anti-pattern.

 

Are you having trouble helping the team working well with their Product Owner? We’ve put together a course to help you work on the collaboration team-product owner. You can find it at: bit.ly/coachyourpo. 18 modules, 8+ hours of modules with tools and techniques that you can use to help teams and PO’s collaborate.

About Martin Lambert

Martin’s an agile coach, trainer and scrum master. He’s a Northener making a living in the south of England, and finds great energy and sense of purpose from the agile movement during the second act of his career. Loves the hills and being out on a road bike. And to all the European listeners, he says: “sorry for you know what”.

You can link with Martin Lambert on LinkedIn.

Building Skyscrapers and Shattering Dreams in Product Development | Guest post by Rainer Tikk

Rainer Tikk writes this guest blog post about what Product Development looks like from the perspective of a leader of a software organization in a mid-size bank. He’s the Head of Software Development at LHV, an Estonian bank betting on IT as a competitive advantage.

To a non-IT person, developing an IT solution might often seem like a mystical activity that boys with ponytails (and some girls) do in a dark basement somewhere. Moreover, software development, in general, is an expensive activity altogether and often takes more time than it really should. And even if there is money available to pay for the software development, more often than not, it’s almost impossible to find a developer to build the stuff you need.

Continue reading Building Skyscrapers and Shattering Dreams in Product Development | Guest post by Rainer Tikk

Dirk Fabricius: The Secret Backlog, Product Owner anti-pattern

In this Product Owner episode, we talk about the importance of nurturing the collaboration between Product Owner and team, and we uncover The Secret Backlog, a Product Owner anti-pattern.

The Great Product Owner: Accepting team input

Having worked as a Product Owner for 2 years, Dirk has learned the hard way how difficult that role is. So, when he took the Scrum Master Role in a pilot project he wanted to help the PO. Worked to prepare the team environment, getting managers out of the daily meetings to give teams the freedom they needed. Once the team was ready, he worked with the PO to support him. He describes what behaviors made this PO a great PO, including how he treated the team members, interacted with stakeholders, and how the PO was able to accept and process team input.

The Bad Product Owner: The Secret Backlog

There are many things that can go wrong with the product owner. In this episode, we learn about a PO that wanted to micromanage the team, had a second (secret) backlog and was not able to accept and process feedback from the team or others. We also discuss what Scrum Masters can do to detect early signals of problems and to keep themselves in check. Avoiding to escalate the situation even further.

Are you having trouble helping the team working well with their Product Owner? We’ve put together a course to help you work on the collaboration team-product owner. You can find it at: bit.ly/coachyourpo. 18 modules, 8+ hours of modules with tools and techniques that you can use to help teams and PO’s collaborate.

 

About Dirk Fabricius

Dirk has worked in jobs with IT focus for 20 years. He has had the roles of Project Lead, Developer (Backend), Product Owner and Scrum Master. He’s also been a Teacher in Public Schools for 7 years.

You can link with Dirk Fabricius on LinkedIn.

Stanislava Potupchik: The importance of listening to the team, a key skill for the Product Owner role

Stanislava has shown a keen focus on people, and their interactions this week, and to finish off the week we talk about how to apply that focus in the Product Owner role. First as a learning process, and helping a team member gain trust in their abilities. Later we talk about the great Product Owner, one that was ready to listen to the team, and answer their questions.

The Great Product Owner: Listening to the team

As an example of a great Product Owner, Stanislava mentions the ability to listen. To pay attention to what the team needs, and to be available to answer questions when they arise in the team.

We also talk about how important it is for teams to ask questions, and how Scrum Masters can coach teams to learn how to ask questions from the Product Owner.

The Bad Product Owner: Learning to be a Product Owner from scratch

Sometimes the “bad” Product Owner, is a temporary situation for a team member that wants to take on a new role. In this segment, we talk about how we can help shy, and inexperienced team members learn a new role.

Are you having trouble helping the team working well with their Product Owner? We’ve put together a course to help you work on the collaboration team-product owner. You can find it at: bit.ly/coachyourpo. 18 modules, 8+ hours of modules with tools and techniques that you can use to help teams and PO’s collaborate.

About Stanislava Potupchik

Stanislava is not only a serious games facilitator and a team coach, but she also spends a considerable amount of time rock-climbing and hiking, traveling with her partner and son, and drawing zentangles.

You can link with Stanislava Potupchik on LinkedIn and connect with Stanislava Potupchik on Twitter.

Susanne Taylor: The micro-manager Product Owner and how that affects the Scrum team

It’s not only how the Product Owners act at work that matters when it comes to great Product Owner examples. In this episode, we discuss how the private life of a Product Owner affects the team, and how the Product Owner’s private life is also affected by their approach to the role.

The Great Product Owner: Product Owner role boundaries to help the PO and the team

When we think about the Product Owner role, we often get stuck in the responsibilities of the role. However, it is important to understand what are the work-ethics, and work-life boundaries that great Product Owners have. In this episode, we talk about the Product Owner role from a human, personal perspective, and learn how this Product Owner setup his life to be a great product owner. Listen in to learn the approach at work, and how he separated work from personal life.

The Bad Product Owner: The email micro-manager Product Owner

Email management is one of the anti-patterns we often see. In this segment, we talk about the micro-managing email-driven Product Owner, and how that pattern of behavior created conflict and problems in the relationship with the team.

 

Are you having trouble helping the team working well with their Product Owner? We’ve put together a course to help you work on the collaboration team-product owner. You can find it at: bit.ly/coachyourpo. 18 modules, 8+ hours of modules with tools and techniques that you can use to help teams and PO’s collaborate.

About Susanne Taylor

Susanne is a transition coach, which translates to roles as: change management facilitator, organizational development consultant, scrum master, agile coach and community manager. (Often simultaneously.) Susanne has learned to be adaptable and resilient after having lived in Alaska, Japan, Taiwan and now Germany. She is passionate about accompanying people on journeys of transformation. (And she considers herself an introvert.)

You can link with Susanne Taylor on LinkedIn and connect with Susanne Taylor on Twitter.

Izis Filipaldi: What makes the Proxy Product Owner as a success pattern?

Although Proxy Product Owners may be an anti-pattern, there are cases in which that ability to be a bridge and translate the customer requirements will help the team. 

We also talk about the case of the PO that needed to learn to speak the team’s language.

The Great Product Owner: The translator Product Owner Proxy

It’s easy to be tempted to hire a very experienced Product Owner. However, in some situations, what the team needs is a hard-working Product Owner with a good understanding of technology, to help translate user/customer requirements into small enough stories. In this segment, we talk about the newbie PO, that was technical-minded and was able to translate the customer requirements in a way that helped the team.

The Bad Product Owner: The business PO, who did not speak User Story-language

When a Product Owner joins a team, and has little knowledge of the product, the team may need to step in and help the Product Owner. However, that help can detract from the PO’s need and ability to learn the product. In this segment, we discuss such a case, and how Izis was able to help that Product Owner step up and take on more responsibility.

Are you having trouble helping the team working well with their Product Owner? We’ve put together a course to help you work on the collaboration team-product owner. You can find it at: bit.ly/coachyourpo. 18 modules, 8+ hours of modules with tools and techniques that you can use to help teams and PO’s collaborate.

About Izis Filipaldi

Izis’ mission is to help people to improve their knowledge and professional value inside organizations, applying the agile way of working. She has been working as an Agile Coach for more than 7 years, helping people to deliver products, developing an environment free of judgments where they can fail fast and learn faster. Continuous improvement of: people knowledge, product delivery, and work environment, are her 3 main focus on work. And she loves what she does!

You can link with Izis Filipaldi on LinkedIn and connect with Izis Filipaldi on Twitter.

BONUS: Does Agile play well in Leadership teams in organizations? – Diana Larsen and Jutta Eckstein

Diana and I were kicking around a few topics for this episode, and we ended up selecting “Agile and Leadership, friends or foes?” The idea is to talk about how Agile and Leadership play together (or not)

In this episode, we talk with Diana Larsen and Jutta Eckstein about what problems Leaders try to fix with Agile, what challenges they have when they try to adopt Agile, and we will do this with the focus on the Scrum Master role, and what they can do by working with the leaders of the organizations they work within.

Let’s start by defining some of the major challenges we see happening out there.

The 3 biggest challenges on how Agile plays (or not) with Leadership

Some of the challenges we mention in this episode are not new. You are probably familiar with many of them. We talk about how Agile requires us to think about leadership as a distributed responsibility that team members need to take on, which is itself a major challenge for Scrum Masters as they help their teams understand what that means in practice. 

We also discuss how important it is to understand that leadership is not simply a “role”, but also something we need to earn, including Scrum Masters.

Finally, we talk about the important role that leaders play for the teams they work with. Specifically in setting the direction that helps the teams adopt quicker processes like Hypothesis-Driven-Development, for example.

How Scrum Masters can cope with these challenges

We then discuss how Scrum Masters can understand, and learn to cope with these challenges. Not surprisingly, Agile Retrospectives come up as a critical tool for Scrum Masters to use when working with teams and their leaders. 

Regarding collaboration with leaders, we discuss how Scrum Masters can help teams focus on the right goals, which need to be defined in cooperation with leaders in the organization.

But there’s a second tool we discuss that complements perfectly the work we do with the retrospectives and helps the teams and leaders understand where they can contribute the most: visualization as a way to establish a shared context.

Do Scrum Masters really need to protect the team from their leaders? 

Stop me if you have heard this one before. Way back when I was taught that Scrum Masters need to protect the team from interference. Although it made sense to me at the time, with the passing of time, and after collecting more than a decade of experience, I have come to value a different approach. 

In this segment, we talk about the need (or not) to protect the team from Leadership interference. 

The goal, of course, is to generate a real collaboration between the team and the leaders in the organization.

The key resources on leadership and Scrum by Diana Larsen, Jutta Eckstein and Vasco Duarte

Given that leadership, and the collaboration between teams and leaders is a critical topic for Scrum Masters, we discuss some of the resources (books, podcasts, articles) we’ve found useful and informative on how to tackle that collaboration. 

Here are the resources we mention: 

 

How about you? What have been your major challenges when working with leaders in your organization? Leave a comment below and share the tools/books/podcasts you’ve found useful. 

About Diana Larsen and Jutta Eckstein

Diana Larsen co-founded and collaborates in leadership of Agile Fluency™ Project. Diana co-authored the books Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great; Liftoff: Start and Sustain Successful Agile Teams; Five Rules for Accelerated Learning; and the seminal “Agile Fluency Model: A Brief Guide to Success with Agile” article.

You can link with Diana Larsen on LinkedIn and connect with Diana Larsen on Twitter

 

Jutta Eckstein works as an independent coach & consultant. 

As a developer, she started with XP in 97/98, started scaling agile in 2001 (and published about that in 2004), and am now Jutta focuses on company-wide agility.

You can link with Jutta Eckstein on LinkedIn and connect with Jutta Eckstein on Twitter

You can learn more at Jutta Eckstein’s website, and check out Jutta’s books on Amazon and LeanPub.

Jutta’s Agile Bossanova book is available here.

Nick Stewart: The Inexperienced PO and what to do to help them

From an inexperienced PO to a PO with a clear Vision, in this episode, we explore two totally different types of Product Owners, and we learn from Nick what worked in those cases.

The Great Product Owner: The Clear Vision PO

This Product Owner behaved like a great PO from the start of the project. The PO had a clear vision for the end result and was able to filter all the requests and requirements. From the team’s perspective, the process felt seamless. 

If it was only like this for all teams we work with. Listen in to learn what made this PO so productive and his approach motivating for the team

The Bad Product Owner: The Inexperienced PO

At one point Nick was working with a new and inexperienced Product Owner. This did not make things easy, and the anti-patterns quickly started to surface. 

It was a coaching challenge for Nick. In this segment, we explore the techniques and approaches that Nick used to try and help this inexperienced PO.

Are you having trouble helping the team working well with their Product Owner? We’ve put together a course to help you work on the collaboration team-product owner. You can find it at: bit.ly/coachyourpo. 18 modules, 8+ hours of modules with tools and techniques that you can use to help teams and PO’s collaborate.

 

About Nick Stewart

Nick has worked in the “Projects Space” for the last 5 years, initially working with business change, then in IT using Prince 2, Waterfall and ultimately found Agile organically through pain of delivering projects using the other methodologies. More recently he has taken on a Delivery Lead role which allows him to continue to learn whilst helping teams deliver continuous value.

You can link with Nick Stewart on LinkedIn and connect with Nick Stewart on Twitter

Sebastian Reverso: The PO who as able to be the Voice of the Customer

In this episode, we discuss two very different Product Owner patterns. We talk about a PO that felt their role was to be the voice of the customer, and the PO who felt the team was merely a “service provider” and they were the “outsider” who would demand service.

The Great Product Owner: The voice of the customer

This Product Owner had faced real customers. The PO worked previously in customer services and had to face the customer regularly. As she started working with the team, she was able to convey her ideas clearly, and from the customer’s point of view. At the same time, she did not interfere with the team’s technical discussion, letting them decide how the team would implement those ideas in practice.

The Bad Product Owner: The “outsider” PO

This particular Product Owner was stuck with the idea that the PO is not part of the team. That led to several problems. For example, the team would end up reporting “status” to the PO in the dailies and ended up trying to push more stories into the sprints. In this segment, we discuss how we can help PO’s that have that “outsider” perspective and how to get to a point when the PO feels like they are part of the team.

 

Are you having trouble helping the team working well with their Product Owner? We’ve put together a course to help you work on the collaboration team-product owner. You can find it at: bit.ly/coachyourpo. 18 modules, 8+ hours of modules with tools and techniques that you can use to help teams and PO’s collaborate.

 

About Sebastian Reverso

Sebastian is from Tucuman, Argentina. He has been working as a software developer since 2012 and as a Scrum Master since 2017. 

Among his favorite activities are mountain biking and football (soccer).

You can link with Sebastian Reverso on LinkedIn and connect with Sebastian Reverso on Twitter.

Jaime Bartol: from micro-managing Product Owners to confident, but enabling PO’s

From a confident Product Owner, the team can get a feeling that they are working on the right things, and use that to ask the right questions from the PO. However, sometimes that PO confidence can morph into an autocratic, micro-managing approach. We discuss how to identify when that happens and what to out for when working with confident Product Owners.

The Great Product Owner: Confident enough to be vulnerable

When a Product Owner understands well the product they are managing, it becomes easier for them to interact with the team. But that’s just the start. A great Product Owner is also able to say what they don’t know, and invite the team to bring their own knowledge and contribution to the process of defining what to work on. 

The Bad Product Owner: Second-guessing the team

Product Owners benefit from having technical knowledge of the product they manage. However, when they use that technical knowledge to second-guess the team, it’s easy for conflict to emerge. In this episode, we talk about how to work with PO’s that start by trying to micro-manage the team and second-guess their decisions. It’s not easy, but there are certain techniques we can use to help those PO’s

 

Are you having trouble helping the team working well with their Product Owner? We’ve put together a course to help you work on the collaboration team-product owner. You can find it at: bit.ly/coachyourpo. 18 modules, 8+ hours of modules with tools and techniques that you can use to help teams and PO’s collaborate.

About Jaime Bartol

Jaime has been a ScrumMaster/Agile Coach for 6 years with experience in large organizations as well as startup teams! She has worked with frontend and data engineering teams and even brought Agile to awesome marketing teams! Jaime’s passion is about teams and using Agile/Scrum fundamentals to elevate efficiency, productivity, and joy!

You can link with Jaime Bartol on LinkedIn.