Why is it that more than half of us don’t validate success after delivering a product? To me this shows that most of us Product Owners simply execute and don’t really focus on adding value for our clients. In this blog I will go deeper into what I think is the cause of this.
During one of our online interactive sessions with thought leaders Randy Keyers and Ron Eringa, both known from leading tremendous agile transitions and being involved in scrum.org, we heard that most companies never get to a broad supported organizational agile culture.
Leading an product platform during the more then 200 PO talks the biggest challenge of Product Owners seems to be the organization, research also confirms this showing that scaling beyond teams is one of companies, operating in agile, biggest challenges.
Daniel pinks book ‘Drive’ addresses ‘If, then’ rewards. A lot of companies still believe in incentives. If we promise to deliver something, then we will be given a bonus. Output in a lot of companies is therefore still the main driver for performance reviews, just build it! It destroys the whole creative, open mindset & the inspect and adapt mentality.
Working with systems like this seem to drastically lower people’s capacity to solve complex issues. It also creates silos as it’s motivating teams and individuals to checkbox their deliverables, instead of working towards the same objectives. Combined with mandate this is the main driver of roadmaps in a lot of companies. My targets and goals are more important than the customer and our long-term vision.
As a PO it can be difficult to focus on and deliver value. First of all it seems that we spend most time on meetings, which leaves less time to focus on validation and add value. We all know these aren’t just scrum events.
“Around 60% of PO’s communicated spending more than half of their time on meetings and the same amount of professionals communicated wanting to know more about leadership skills, coincidence?”.
Next to that only 68.3% communicated not always determining value beforehand & 50% of us aren’t driven by data.
What to do about it
It is of course easy to say that we are the victim here and that it’s out of our hands. Isn’t it our job to identify what value actually means and lead the way? Do you really think that you will get fired if you say ‘NO’ to meetings or development?
If it’s actually high risk, the company can’t operate because of legislation, security issues, then of course we must act. But for the rest we can OWN the product. We like to help and find it difficult to say no to people, but if we don’t the consequences are worse: not meeting sprints, lack of focus, demotivation because of constant changes in teams, interference in the team & in the end building products without actual value.
Where to start?
The sentence that echo’s everywhere is easy to share of course, START SMALL. We want to change the world, companies, structures, processes but start with the team.
- What are the biggest bottlenecks to be productive (Make sure the development machine runs smoothly)?
- Protect the team so they can focus;
- Clarify the WHY & WHAT;
- Involve the organization in successes, failures & be transparent.
- Validate assumptions and measure;
One of the strongest tools for building successful products is building a support base, you’re not alone:
- Create ambassadors around you;
- Involve them in your vision of the product;
- Collaborate with data teams, UI / UX, customer support departments to gather data
Most people are willing to help, everyone wants to work on things that matter. If you communicate in we instead of I convincing will be a lot easier. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of time, and maybe you will be delivering less, but it’s not about the amount of stories you deliver, it’s about the value!
Things I did that helped me a lot:
- Work with data teams to identify drop-off points / ‘performance’ issues;
- Visualize and communicate using dashboards, presentations;
- Make use of your team members and stakeholders to get valuable data and work together
- Ux-design / validation with clients before starting to build;
- Customer success validating new ideas / features with clients.
What if the above doesn’t work?
If an organization and / or its leaders truly don’t care about its customers ask yourself the question if it’s the right place for you. Most of the times the following 3 signals to move on. Check the following articles for interesting info.