Published (and inspired) on Agile and Scrum Blog by Zuzi Sochova (an independent Agile coach and trainer and a Certified Scrum Master Trainer with more than 15 years of experience in the IT industry).
We all agree in one – being an efficient Product Owner isn’t a simple thing. Especially in crisis. Maybe the lack of an Agile mindset, lack of authority to decide or something third, Product Owners are human beings and yes – they’re making mistakes. In the text below, we’ll show you some common mistakes of a Product Owner from practice:
#1 Product Owners can’t say no
The Product Owner who says yes to all wishes from the customers will fail as the quantity will burn out the organization. There is no way you can do everything. There are so many options in a complex world. So much functionality customers can ask for. Instead, Product Owners are prioritizing based on the business value, and as 80% of the value is hidden in only 20% of the functionality, they need to say no quite often during their prioritization.
#2 Product Owners can’t prioritize
Product Owner who believes everything needs to be done is not a Product Owner but a customer or stakeholder. Prioritization is key in Scrum, at any time you must know what is more important than the rest and what are we going to invest our energy (effort and money) into next and the rest later or never, depending on the feedback and impact we achieved by the value delivered.
#3 Product Owners don’t have the business knowledge
Business knowledge is wider than just a product understanding. It covers the understanding of customers, the market, and the competitive landscape. Without such deeper understanding, Product Owners can’t make a decision and are drafted by different stakeholder groups into their political fights.
#4 Product Owners don’t have a vision
Without a clear vision, there is no direction, no way Product Owner can prioritize, and no Scrum. It’s just a mess where all we can do is to say “everything needs to be done”. The key responsibility of the Product Owner is to have a vision and be able to share it with everybody.
#5 Product Owners don’t have negotiation skills
And this is maybe at the nearest top of the list when it comes to business. The Product Owners without negotiation skills are very weak Product Owners. They often end us accepting everything customers ask for and are struggling to say no. Negotiation skills help Product Owners to understand not only what the users want but also what they need. And that’s the key part of the prioritization.
#6 Product Owners don’t experiment
Product Owners who believe they can create a plan and then step by step execute it with the development teams during Sprints are not real Product Owners. Backlog can’t be farther from a plan and an iterative approach of delivery is here to inspect and adapt and learn from experiments.
#7 Estimates are the Key
Product owners who focus too much on estimates are mentally tight to the functionality, not the business value. In the traditional world, the estimates are important as all we care about is delivery, and we need to deliver more. In the Agile world, it’s not about delivering features.
#8 Losing focus on multiple products
Product Owners taking care of multiple products don’t have focus, and often don’t have time. Considering Product Owner is the person responsible for the overall product success including the return of investment, it’s quite useful to have the focus for making the product successful and don’t switch the context all the time.
#9 Product Owners don’t make an impact
Every backlog item is an experiment where you expect something will happen as a result. That’s the impact. Without knowing why you invest team time and energy into it, why to do it in the first place? Running an experiment without knowing how are you going to evaluate it is silly. That’s not an experiment but functionality you plan to deliver no matter what
#10 Product Owners often feel they aren’t part of the team
Instead, they act as Backlog managers, telling the team what to do, and then waiting to get results/blaming at the end of Sprint. Instead of that, Product Owners are part of the Scrum team, they are team members, they must collaborate with the team on delivering the value and achieving the Sprint Goal.
In the end, we’re all human beings. With different flaws and virtues. Throughout whole of our life we’re learning and adopting new knowledge and it’s normal to make some mistakes. In this process, it’s important to accomplish a goal and remain professional in each aspect of the business.
If you wanna be a truly fantastic Product Owner, never doubt in your capability to make great things especially in your career.
Tell us your experience and some common mistakes in your team. Share good practices.☺️