RainForest, 1968: an early remote collaboration between Merce Cunningham, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and David Tudor, each working independently until the day of the performance.
A myth has grown up in our workplaces that the product manager/owner is the person responsible for writing (and knowing!) all the user requirements, and is solely accountable for the success of a product, some literature going as far as calling these people the "single wringable neck". On the contrary—and somewhat paradoxically—a product owner needs to release ownership, accept they have only one perspective, and thus learn to collaborate deeply with developers, users, designers, testers and other stakeholders in order to achieve greatness.
The Product Owner responsibility
The Product Owner responsibility in Scrum is a highly creative, highly collaborative and integral part of a scrum team. It requires people to be inventive and exploratory, to have excellent listening skills and a learner's mind, to focus on users and value and to seek advice and input from many sources.
In practice it too often plays out differently to this. At one extreme we have the forceful, know-it-all PO, unwilling to listen and assuming all decision-making power. At the other extreme we have the helpless, disempowered proxy PO, with no decision-making authority acting as little more than an administrative assistant. In between these extremes we find various shades of confusion, bewilderment, misinformation and old work habits playing out.
Existing corporate culture may drive many of these dysfunctions, but without a clear set of expectations a product owner will struggle to establish new work practices and confront the existing system. This workshop offers such a vision: the collaborative product owner.
Collaboration is not a synonym for communication. Anyone can communicate—just issue a command, or send an email. One-way communication is cheap, and usually ineffective, and yet is our default way of sharing information. Collaboration takes more work, and a great deal of practice. It is the art of dialog, requiring two-way, or multi-way conversations in real time, ideally face-to-face. It requires exploration, visualisation, and even prototyping. Good collaborators never compromise, instead they discover new pathways, discard old ideas, dream new dreams, and join forces to make these visions a reality. This takes real skill—and a very different approach to working than is generally taught on typical certification courses, MBAs, or even in the workplace.
The New NormalSince the outbreak of COVID19, online interaction has become the default way of working for people across the world. For mechanical, process-driven work this has made little impact, but for creative, collaborative work there are some losses to acknowledge. We no longer have the subtleties of body language, direct eye-contact or other bodily nuance that makes immediate, in-person human interaction such a powerful tool for co-working and creative making.
The challenge now is to acknowledge the losses, let them go and embrace a new way of collaborating in this unfamiliar, and as yet barely-unexplored territory. Early experiences in this space indicate there is a wealth of interactions to mine for the good. So let's dig!
In the course of this workshop, participants will learn how to deeply engage one another through visual exploration, confrontation, dialog, storytelling and real life examples, leading to clear purpose and well-understood, well-crafted product requirements. Specifically, the following topics will be covered.
Who should attend?
Contrary to the title, this is not a workshop solely for product owners. I encourage scrum masters and developers to join this workshop, ideally with their product counterparts. If we are learning to collaborate, the best way to do that is to collaborate—here and now.
Comments from Previous Participants
"Tobias, your collaborative product owner workshop is truly an insightful experience in letting go and creating a space in between, inviting and meeting people in that space, suited for executives, managers, not just product owners." — Frederic Ducros, Chief Transformation Officer, AirAsia
"The Collaborative Product Owner has left me with profound insight. Now I breathe collaboration, feel into products and connect with their owners. This workshop is an unforgettable experience that drives the hedonic understanding without neglecting the cognitive faculties. Priceless." — Sven Ihnken, scrum master
"It was an insightful day for me. Through the creative activities I realized once again how important (and yet so often neglected) is the mindful approach to people we work with. Definitely a lot to reflect on especially for those who are on the self-mastery journey." — Natalie Caraman, scrum master, agile coach
"Highly recommend for those interested in developing existing or learning new skills and behaviours to be successful in an Agile environment. This one day workshop provides powerful tools and practical skills to improve project collaboration and team productivity." — Meg Dibb-Fuller, digital and communications professional
"And again, in a smooth and apparently effortless way, you managed to use the topic of the workshop, the collaboration, to create the workshop itself. Just magic. Collaboration is one of those things that we all think we know it, but too often we don't spend enough time to make sure that people around us have the same ideas. In the workshop we experimented this, discovering how a product owner can be at the centre of a collaboration network and where the collaboration space takes place.
The Request/Response model is simple, and in its simplicity relies its power. It is already helping me in visualising my current context better, and its dysfunctions.
Not secondarily, the numerous practical exercises help to understand and experiment the model, and they are something that go straight into my toolbox; I know they will be extremely useful in facilitating other workshops and retrospective.
Thank you so very much for the effort you put in your work." — Davide Aldrovandi, coach, scrum master, listener
Date & Time
This is an online workshop, spanning one full day or two half days. The next date will be determined by the participants themselves. Express your interest in this workshop to be included in the date decision.
CostCorporate: £330 + vat
LocationZoom. The access link will be sent on registration.
If you'd like to host this workshop, or offer it privately within your organisation please get in touch. Pricing is flexible according to organisational status and ability to pay.
Image: RainForest © Laurent Philippe
Content: Tobias Mayer, 2016-2020
Page last updated: 01/10/2020