November 18, 2019

The Making of the Brand-New PSPO-A Training Class

Finally, it’s here! An advanced and certified Professional Scrum Product Owner-Advanced class, with PSPO-II certification! After months working in secret, we can now share the journey that Chris Lukassen and I had in creating this advanced Product Owner class.

With the development and release of this brand-new class, Chris and I have officially been appointed as PSPO-A course stewards. This means that we are now responsible (with Ralph Jocham and Don McGreal) for the entire Professional Scrum Product Owner curriculum (both PSPO and PSPO-A). If you’d like to know more about the class and how we designed it, click here for a detailed write-up by Chris Lukassen.

How it all began…

There have been dreams within the Professional Scrum Community for quite some time already about having an advanced Product Owner class. These dreams turned into passion and ambition for actually creating such a class. And thankfully, these dreams, this passion and ambition led to Scrum.org deciding to develop and release a brand-new and certified Professional Scrum Product Owner Advanced training. The official creation of this new course started in the last months of 2018, after Scrum.org had approached the Professional Scrum Trainer Community for creating an advanced Product Owner class. This was an opportunity that I, Chris and a couple of other Product Ownership enthusiasts couldn’t pass up on, and so we all eagerly responded with a “yes” for creating this new Scrum.org class.

As Professional Scrum Trainers, we all care about doing Scrum right. We care about agility, transparency, empiricism and self-organization. We care about how Scrum can support organizations in their journey of solving complex problems in complex environments. And as product people, Chris and I care evenly, if not more, about doing product management right. We care about delivering value for customers and about making products huge successes. This is why we were very enthusiastic about making our contribution to creating this new PSPO-A class.

Starting with a vision

Our vision was to create a class which supports experienced Product Owners in taking the next steps in their learning journey. We started our development efforts with the idea: “Growing from scribe to entrepreneur.” On the other hand, we also wanted to stay close to reality. We know that there are many organizations who don’t do ‘perfect Scrum’. We know that there are many organizations which have multiple (internal) products, multiple product owners and product owners with limited authorities. And there are also these ‘difficult’ stakeholders, fixed budgets, inflexible contracts and conflicting interests.

When we designed the first version of the course, we structured it around the four stakeholder types; Users, Providers, Influencers and Governance stakeholders. This setup made a lot of sense at first, since so many Product Owners struggle with doing stakeholder management effectively. After running the training for a couple of times, we found that the flow of the training wasn’t that great yet, and therefore, the PSPO-A training is now structured around the six stances of the Product Owner. The Product Owner stances are; the Visionary, the Innovator, the Influencer, the Decision Maker, the Collaborator and the Customer Representative. Based on the six stances, the training offers a variety of learnings, exercises, ideas and practices that helps Product Owners to grow towards entrepreneurs, while also staying close to reality. This is why we decided to have a classic newspaper company case, as the thread throughout the training, in which trainees will take on the Product Owner role. And whilst being the Product Owner at this company, you will be facing all kinds of challenges, as you would probably have to face them in the real world.

The first class…

The first official PSPO-A (Beta) class, was taught in June 2019 , after around 6 months of hard work in which we designed the vision, learning objectives, course agenda, created new content, refactored slides, fixed bugs, designed exercises, released training materials, processed feedback and running parts of the training as workshops at customers.

Reid Hoffman once said: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” Although we felt pretty confident about the training content and exercises, we were also a bit nervous about teaching a bunch of PSTs about advanced Product Ownership (PS: if you have ever been teaching some of these smart, experienced and stubborn PSTs, you’ll recognize this feeling ☺). Anyway, running this first class was a great experience! It was a great opportunity to test the structure of the training, its contents and exercises. We would like to express a big thank you to Steve, Julee, Simon, Shirley, Dave and Luc for joining this first class and sharing all your ideas, suggestions and feedback! Based on all your feedback, we made a lot of (small) changes to the second Beta class. We added and removed content and exercises, we adapted the training flow a bit and herewith, made it a better training already. It’s great to see again in practice, that frequent releases of ‘Done’ Increments and customer feedback are key to delivering valuable products.

The second class

The second PSPO-A (Beta) class was taught in July 2019. One of the big points of feedback in the first training, was that the general flow of the training didn’t feel quite right. Therefore, we decided to go into the second Beta with a clear hypothesis statement.

Our hypothesis statement for the second PSPO-A Beta-Class.

Although we had our personal opinions about the training flow ready, we did our very best to go into the second without our personal preferences being in the way. Fortunately for us, the experiment worked and a lot of people brought up the topic by themselves and/or responded that it would be better to change the flow of the training. And so we did.

Based on the data from both trainings, we decided to rearrange the entire training around “The 6 Stances of the Product Owner”, which are explained in more detail in this blog

With these changes, the training felt much more solid, there was a better flow of information, content and exercises and so we were very excited that the next PSPO-A (Beta) training would be based on the new flow.

The end of the beginning

After the ‘official’ (but classified) Beta classes, we ran a couple more classes that helped us improve the training, and we also spend time on helping other trainers to prepare for teaching this class, which included:

  • Creating a Trainer Guide which details the exercises and main takeaways, allowing trainers to use them in their classes;
  • Creating a reference guide with PowerPoint-slides for students, so they could take all the content learned in the class with them more easily;
  • Creating a virtual Train-the-Trainer program to prepare PSTs for teaching the class. We’ve also created an associated series of virtual meetups (called ‘PSPO-II Development’) to periodically gather feedback, share insights and improve the class with the PST’s;
  • Creating supporting materials for the PST’s to use in their class;
  • Teaching the class a number of times with PSTs present to show them how to teach the class;

It has been around 10 months of hard work building this great new Scrum.org class called PSPO-A. It was also an awesome journey, with lots of fun, laughs, interesting discussions and new learnings. We therefore really want to thank Scrum.org, Ralph Jochem, Don McGreal, Andy Brandt, Ty Crockett, Sjoerd Kranendonk, Steve Porter and all the participants from the Beta classes for sharing all your ideas, feedback and input in order to create this awesome new class.

Go and experience it!

If you’re a Product Owner, Product Manager, Scrum Master or Agile Coach with about a year (or more) of experience under your belt, go and explore this new class. Find a trainer to your liking or in your area, and deepen and expand your Product Management knowledge and skills. And let us know what you think about the training! What did you like? What can be improved? Let’s collaborate to take the profession of Product Ownership to the next level.

If you’d like to know more about the class and how we designed it, click here for a detailed write-up by Chris Lukassen.

If you’d like to experience the all-new PSPO-A (Professional Scrum Product Owner Advanced) class, go to Scrum.org to find a class in your area. If you’d like to participate in one of our classes, check out our Xebia Academy page for more information or inquire for an in-house class via training@xebia.com.