BONUS: Collaboration between Product Owners and Developers with the Digital Product School

Every 4 months, about 8 teams comprised of University students, other students, and partner-company employees start working on a new product idea at the Digital Product School (DPS).

These teams become their own mini-startups, and work to develop, and sell their products in a 3-month accelerated program. They experience hands-on what it is to work in a start-up and to go from a fuzzy idea (the problem space) to a product they can sell in a very short period of time. 

This learn-by-doing program helps companies educate their employees in rapid product development methods, and helps students get hands-on experience with product development in a very short period of time. 

The most common problems teams face in DPS

The teams that join and complete DPS usually have the same problems all other teams face, but because of the accelerated time-frame, and because the DPS team has seen more than 10 batches already, the problems are obvious! And we can learn a lot from those problems when it comes to the more normal product development we participate in. 

The first challenge teams face is that they have a hard time locking down the problem they want to solve. As it happens, they want to solve too many problems, which is a common affliction of many teams and leads to confused and confusing products. 

The DPS team expected that it would be hard to convince developers to work with users and do user research. However, it turns out developers actually embrace that work, and the biggest problem is getting the Product Managers (PMs) to make decisions. PMs tend to expect that the “process” will ensure they have a good outcome, and that leads to having a hard time making decisions. 

In this segment, we talk about how to help PMs make decisions and the transformation that happens when PMs are faced with the need to make decisions. 

The biggest problem in the Developer-PM collaboration

In such an accelerated program (3 months from idea to product), it is natural that the pressure is high at some point. PM’s work needs to include facilitating and motivating the teamwork. Why are we doing certain decisions? What’s the goal of a certain user test? And many more questions come up during the work. 

This brings one of the biggest problems in the Developer-PM collaboration: the motivation of the team when under pressure. In this segment, we also talk about the most common anti-patterns developers and PMs fall into when under pressure. There are also some great insights for Scrum Masters about team building and coping with pressure!

Enabling good Developer-PM collaboration

One of the usual sticking points in the Developer-PM collaboration is the fact that these people speak different languages. Many Scrum Masters also experience that when they see PMs and developers fight about estimations, for example. 

At DPS, special attention is put into helping PMs understand what developers do and vice-versa. From explaining and using tools that developers use, to helping developers understand Story Maps and other PM tools, the way the DPS team helps developers and PM’s collaborate is especially about helping each other and learning each other’s job and responsibilities.

Why Product Manager and not Product Owner?

At DPS, the team decided early on to call the role of the product person the Product Manager, and not the Product Owner. Why did they do that? 

In this segment, we explore a question that most companies adopting Scrum will need to struggle with: what to call the product roles. 

The DPS team shares how the idea of “product” is owned by the whole team, and that the product manager role is much more than looking at the backlog or defining priorities, it’s about being responsible for user experience, business, and technology!

This emphasizes the idea of the DPS program: product development is a team sport! 

Resources for rapid product development

At the end of the episode, we talk about what resources DPS suggests teams to study, and we list the following books: 

About Digital Product School

DPS is an accelerated product development program in Munich that helps students from University and employees in partner companies experience hands-on what it is to work in a startup. In 3 months they go from idea to a product, and some ideas are brought back to the companies for further development. 

About the DPS team

Michi / Michael Stockerl is director of DPS and has worked as a software engineer with several teams in different setups. Before that, he gathered experience in smaller Startups in Munich and Germany’s biggest Q&A platform.

 

Steffen is a trained journalist, who slipped into product management through Content Management and e-commerce. He worked with Amazon and Haymarket media, did several hundred user interviews and tests, witnessed dozens of teams at DPS, a Digital Product School of the Technical University of Munich in Germany.

Bela is a Software Engineer at DPS. She helps teams with various software and hardware engineering tasks. She was previously also a participant at DPS. 

Jeffrey Koors: The full-stack Product Owner

The Product Owner role is not a simple one, so it is critical we help them understand the complete spectrum of topics the PO should be aware of. Even when the PO does not take care of all of those topics, they are critical in enabling the team by thinking about process, business and collaboration.

The Great Product Owner: The full-stack Product Owner

Product Owners that are able to manage their time to be present when the team needs them are sure to have a great contribution, but PO’s really excel when they are able to collaborate well with the team, and understand that reducing WIP, running-tested-software, and good communication with stakeholders are critical aspects of their role.

The Bad Product Owner: The PO that didn’t care about the details

When a Product Owner fails to discuss the details with the team, that leads to many possible misunderstandings and a deteriorating relationship between team and PO. In this segment, we talk about how to help PO’s go through the details enough so that the team feels confident they understand the story and are able to implement their vision.

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 Jeffrey Koors

Jeff started his studies and career as a fine artist and has gone on to use his creative thinking and vision to help many organizations find ways to design systems, solve problems and embrace Agile. Jeff is also the co-founder and host of Coaching Agile Journeys.

You can link with Jeffrey Koors on LinkedIn and connect with Jeffrey Koors on Twitter.

Charles Rodriguez: How to help the PO focus on value

In this episode, we talk about the PO’s role inside the team, and how we can help Product Owners focus on value.

The Great Product Owner: The PO who focuses on team success

The Product Owner in Scrum is a very difficult role, maybe even a super-human role. Unless we start thinking about the role as part of the success of the team, rather than the only responsible for the product. Great Product Owners focus on helping the team succeed, and learn to say “no” to everything that gets in the way, even if that’s a feature they “love”.

The Bad Product Owner: The PO that focuses on the “how” instead of the “why” 

When a PO focuses on the “how”, they miss their ability to communicate with the team in a way that describes what value is. The Value should be the center of the PO’s attention, but when the PO starts telling the team “how” something should be developed, they lose time outside the “value conversation”. In this episode, we explore ways to help the PO focus on, and define value for the team.

In this segment, we refer to an insight by David Hussman called “Dude’s Law” (Value = Why? / How?).

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 Charles Rodriguez

Charles has been working in software development for 16+ years with roles ranging from a database developer to manager to agile coach all in an effort to ‘try to make things better’ for future generations joining the IT industry.

You can link with Charles Rodriguez on LinkedIn and connect with Charles Rodriguez on Twitter.

Christian Hofstetter: The Product Owner that was too busy to help the Scrum team

From the common and frequent “too busy to help” anti-pattern to the PO that was ready to handle the natural and predictable unpredictability of business. Two contrasting patterns that can make or break the success of the team and the product. 

The Great Product Owner: A PO who is ready for uncertainty

Good Product Owners have a clear Vision and know how to communicate it to the team and stakeholders. However, great Product Owners also are able to understand how to adapt that Vision and evolve it continuously in uncertain market and business conditions.

In this segment, we refer to the concept of VUCA: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguity.

The Bad Product Owner: Too busy to help the team

One pattern that emerges over and over again is that of the PO who is too busy to help the team succeed. In this episode, Christian shares his own story as a Product Owner, and what he learned about how to step out of the “too busy to help” 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 Christian Hofstetter

Christian is an enthusiastic Release Train Engineer, Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, and Facilitator who started his agile journey as a Product Owner. Later he turned his back on technology and focused on people and relationships. He is passionate about creating space for people and teams to be the best they can be.

You can link with Christian Hofstetter on LinkedIn.

Raphael Branger: The Product Owner that “spoke” SQL, a success story 

From a Product Owner who spoke the same language as the team to the Product Owner that was absent, in this episode, we explore two patterns and the techniques Raphael used to help the team benefit from the Product Owner’s and stakeholder’s feedback.

The Great Product Owner: The Product Owner who spoke technical language

In this segment, we talk about a manager that wanted to be involved, wanted to know what the team was working on, and was even able to “speak” SQL with the team. This is an example of how management can bring value to the team by providing insight and quick decisions.

The Bad Product Owner: Working around the absent Product Owner

Sometimes, we are given the task to work with a Product Owner that is absent. In this segment, we talk about how Raphael was able to work around that problem and involve the right person to have feedback and quick decisions for the team. A great story of how Scrum Masters can work with what is available, instead of complaining about what is not.

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 Raphael Branger

Raphael Branger is a Certified Disciplined Agile Practitioner and a pioneer in adapting agile methods in the context of data and analytics projects. He works as a Principal Consultant Data & Analytics at IT-Logix in Switzerland with more than seventeen years of experience in business intelligence and data warehousing.

You can link with Raphael Branger on LinkedIn and connect with Raphael Branger on Twitter.

Marianne Erickson: Fostering collaboration between Product Owner and Scrum team

In this Product Owner episode, we focus on the closeness of collaboration and the shared direction between PO and team. We discuss what Scrum Masters can do to help bridge that gap and improve collaboration between PO and team.

The Great Product Owner: Creating the feeling of “team” between PO and Scrum team

Great Product Owners can engage the team, help them focus on the goals. But the PO’s role is not only about communicating, it is about creating a sense of a shared future. In this segment, we talk about how clear goals can help the team and the PO feel they are part of the team, and collaborate effectively.

The Bad Product Owner: The great dictator

Product Owners may try to dictate the focus and tasks to the team. When that happens, the team and PO start drifting apart. As Scrum Masters we must be aware of “how close” PO and team are so that we can tackle the distancing between them, and bring them together with techniques like shared goals, better Story writing techniques (e.g. Story Map), and other approaches.

 

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 Marianne Erickson

Always an enthusiastic Agilist, Marianne is proud to be a part of the Agile Transformation Team at AAA, a company that empowers its team members to learn, grow, empower, and do the right thing! 

You can link with Marianne Erickson on LinkedIn and connect with Marianne Erickson on Twitter

Steve Jaccaud: The PO who threw the team under the bus

In this episode, we discuss a particularly negative side of some PO’s approach, and how to help them get out of that negative spiral.

The Great Product Owner: Working on all sides of the PO role

When it comes to a great Product Owner, Steve shares the story of a PO that worked all the angles of the PO job and understood that PO’s are not only Backlog managers, but there are a lot more sides to that role which will, in the end, help the team and the product succeed.

The Bad Product Owner: The PO who threw the team under the bus

The company had a great product, that helped the company succeed in the market. To try and make it even better, the company hired one of their most vocal customers to drive the product forward. This customer became the PO, but the change they hoped for wasn’t going to happen. This PO would throw the team under the bus at Sprint Reviews. This was when Steve decided to intervene, but very quickly he found out that the best way to work with this PO was to meet him where he was and connect on a personal level. Listen in to learn how Steve helped this PO change his approach, without forcing any change.

 

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 Steve Jaccaud

Steve is an Enterprise Agile Coach, Volunteer, Speaker, and Musician in Boston, Massachusetts. When he’s not leading workshops with creative software organizations, he’s probably working on an album or deep in meditation!

You can link with Steve Jaccaud on LinkedIn and connect with Steve Jaccaud on Twitter

Willem-Jan Ageling: The task-centric, command-and-control PO and its consequences on the Scrum team

The amount of time a Product Owner spends thinking and working on the details is one of the aspects that has the biggest impact on the team. In this episode, we talk about two contrasting PO approaches: from the high-level focus of the Sprint Goal to the task-centric, command-and-control PO.

The Great Product Owner: Crystalizing the Sprint Goal

When we help teams, and Product Owners focus on the User Stories, we are helping them understand, and follow-up on the items they should work on. However, when we help the Product Owner and the team focus on the Sprint Goal, we are helping them focus on impact and outcomes over the tasks and stories they need to work on. This enables many positive behaviors, and when you find a PO that is able to crystalize a Sprint in a Sprint Goal, you know you’ve got gold in your hands, you’ve got a great Product Owner!

The Bad Product Owner: The task-centric, command-and-control PO

Sometimes, Product Owners behave as if they were Project Managers. When that happens, there’s many patterns that emerge in the team, and int he PO-team collaboration which Scrum Masters must actively manage, or mitigate. In this episode, we talk about the task-centric, command-and-control PO, and what you can do to help the PO and team find a better way to collaborate.

 

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 Willem-Jan Ageling

As a Scrum Master and writer for Serious Scrum, Willem-Jan is passionate about helping people understand what it means to work in a complex Product Environment. Which is how he likes to talk about Scrum.

You can link with Willem-Jan Ageling on LinkedIn and connect with Willem-Jan Ageling on Twitter.

Justin Chapman: How to help the Product Owner learn to collaborate with the Scrum Team

Market focus by PO’s is always a great start, however, when they take that focus to mean “ignoring the team’s needs”, the PO role rapidly turns into an anti-pattern. In this episode, we discuss the two sides from that “market focus” coin, when it comes to the PO role.

The Great Product Owner: Deliberate assumption validation

Great Product Owners are deliberate about how and what do when trying to validate their assumptions about the product they own. If we add to this the ability to learn from and listen to the Scrum Master’s perspective on the role, we might be close to the perfect PO.

The Bad Product Owner: Lack of collaboration with the team

Often, Product Owners have a Product Manager background, and therefore bring in that perspective. One of the biggest problems with those PO’s is that they don’t carve out the time to work with, and understand what the teams need. This presents a big challenge for Scrum Masters. In this episode, we talk about how to work with PO’s that come from the PM background, and how to use “powerful questions” to help the PO understand their role when it comes to collaborating 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 Justin Chapman

A Product and Agile Coach with product management experience ranging from payments to enterprise custom build. Justin has hosted a small series on Product Management and another series on Being a Scrum Master. 

Justin has also pioneered a new form of Canvas to help bring teams together. All of this information can be found on his blog: http://www.ponolabs.com/labs/

You can link with Justin Chapman on LinkedIn.

Dimitri Favre: Product Ownership in Scrum is teamwork!

An often missed aspect of Product Ownership is the fact that it is mostly teamwork. That a team can bring a lot of input to the solution definition if they are able to interact with the Product Owner. But there is a dark side to this realization: when the PO is absent, or unable to justify the requirements… We discuss these anti-patterns, and why teamwork is so important when it comes to Product Ownership.

The Great Product Owner: Product Ownership is teamwork

In this segment, we talk about how the Product Owner role is not really only the Product Owner’s responsibility, but that the nest Product Owners are able to work together with the team to answer the question: “What is the minimum solution that fulfills this need?”

The Bad Product Owner: The Pass-through Product Owner

Sometimes, Product Owners act as mere channels for requirements. These “pass-through PO’s” convey the information they collect elsewhere but are often unable to share the reasoning for their ideas with the team, which leads to poor quality requirements, poor quality implementations, and a lack of collaboration with the teams.

In this segment we also refer to the “ghost PO”, a Product Owner that is present only in planning and in the review but is mostly absent, not being able to interact with the team to clarify questions and help the team fine-tune the implementation with early feedback.

 

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 Dimitri Favre

Dimitri is a business, transformation, and agile coach and a repented project manager. Dimitri works side by side with executives, managers, and teams to uncover better ways of developing software and delighting customers. 

Dimitri is the author of a recent book, on the topic of #NoProjects: Live Happily Ever After Without Projects: A #NoProjects book.

You can link with Dimitri Favre on LinkedIn and connect with Dimitri Favre on Twitter.