Monday, February 15, 2016

The Overworked Product Owner

Overwork and stress brings out the worst in everyone.
It has been my experience that most technology problems are not technology problems but problems with people obscured by technology.  Many of my professional headaches in business are caused not by technology behaving unexpectedly rather, they are a product of people behaving in an unexpected manner.  It does not help that modern business puts so much pressure on people that they do not have time to sort through crisis situations in a rational manner.  This week on the blog I wanted to discuss the overworked product owner who you are going to run across in your career.

It amazes me how knowledge and power concentrate in different places at the firm.  Executives who seem to be very good at kissing up and kicking down know nothing about the inner workings of their business.  They understand the accounting but not the actual operation of the business.  The people who understand how the business actually operates are busy making sure the invoicing is done and that the organization is operating.  These people make perfect product owners but they are also a rare commodity so executives often ask these people to do double duty managing multiple projects.  The thinking that they are so good with one project the other projects will go just as smoothly.

This is penny wise and pound foolish.  With attention divided between multiple projects the product owner will not be able to focus on any project and all of them will suffer.  This will create situations where the user stories will not get written in a timely manner or their will not be enough user stories to keep the team working efficiently.  This is going to lead to conflict because the scrum master will accuse the product owner of not doing the necessary work and the product owner will get upset with the scrum master for not delivering his vision soon enough.

My suggestion is that you bring this to the attention of upper management right away because they should know a project is failing long before a deadline passes.  Otherwise it will be your fault that a project fails.

Until next time.