Monday, September 19, 2016

Product Owners Have the Hardest Job in Agile.

Listen to Ben, hang together or hang separately.
I have been kicking around as a scrum master for the last three years.  I have been developing software for eighteen.  Those jobs are difficult and challenging but they do not compare to challenges faced by product owners.  This week I want to talk about the hardest job in Agile – the product owner.

The Scrum Guide is pretty clear about the members of a scrum team.  They are the developers who do the work.  The scrum master is the servant leader of the team and helps remove obstacles.  Finally, there is the Product owner.  The product owner sets priorities writes stories, and acts as the liaison between the business and the development team.  What most product owners do not know is the job includes so much more than what the scrum guide says.

A product owner needs to understand the internal politics of the organization so they can work with in it and sometimes around it to get things done.  Product owners need to understand the customer.  Not only understand the customer but be able to differentiate what software improvements will add value and which ones will waste money.  The product owner is under constant pressure to write stories and to create stories which can be transformed into testable code.  It is a grind and they need to practice mindfulness to separate what is important from what is trivial.

It is not an easy job and as a scrum master or coach you need to help them succeed.  This means spending time showing them how to write user stories.  Take time out to explain the agile manifesto and what developers need to succeed.  Take time to listen about the operations of the business and the politics of the organization.

A scrum master and product owner are equal partners.  To paraphrase Ben Franklin, you will hang together or you will hang separately.  When things go wrong it is usually the product owner who receive the blame.  As a scrum master it is up to you to make sure things do not go wrong.

Business today is not easy but a successful product owner can smooth off many of the rough edges to a software development team.  That is why it is the hardest job in Agile.

Until next time.