The Collaborative Product Owner

The Myth

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, anyone in this role 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 role

The Product Owner role in Scrum is a highly creative, highly collaborative role. 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 vision of the role itself 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

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.

Workshop Content

In the course of this one-day event, participants will learn how to deeply engage one another through visual exploration, confrontation, physical exercises, storytelling and real life examples, leading to clear purpose and well-understood, well-crafted product requirements. Specifically, the following topics will be covered.

  • The Request/Response Model
  • Big-picture thinking
  • PO and stakeholder collaboration
  • PO and team collaboration
  • Product shepherding for multi-team Scrum
  • Team story-writing
  • Emerging a definition of done
  • Release of control
  • Distribution of ownership
  • Personal introspection

Who should attend?

Contrary to the title, this is not a workshop solely for product owners. I encourage ScrumMasters 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.

Registration

See the workshops home page for upcoming Storytelling workshops.

Workshop Cost

The cost of this one-day workshop is £300. Discounts are offered to those on low income. Email Tobias Mayer for discount information.

ScrumMaster Journey

This is a required workshop for completing Phase 2 of the ScrumMaster Journey.