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A Product Owner Needs Facilitation Skills

January 5, 2024

The Product Owner needs facilitation skillsImagine you are a Product Owner sitting in an early evening meeting with other Product Owners. You have arranged the meeting to improve collaboration within different product areas of your organization. There are a lot of strong personalities in the room and the conversation quickly diverges into how the budgeting process in the organization is unnecessarily complicated. Do you, as a Product Owner, have the facilitation skills to get the conversation back to the intended purpose of the meeting? You better!

So much has been written about a Scrum Master needing to have facilitation skills. But what about a Product Owner? In this article, I’d like to make the case that a Product Owner having facilitation skills is as important as a Scrum Master having them.

In my experiences as a Product Owner, I have found myself in many tough situations. In those situations, it was very helpful to have facilitation skills (and not just an arsenal of techniques) to have in my pocket. Here are a few situations I frequently found myself in:

  • Board rooms packed with stakeholders who don’t agree with one another. 
  • Meetings with executives where the topic of conversation, my product, strayed into a completely different subject.
  • Meetings with the Scrum Teams where conflict was mounting (and the Scrum Master was a part of the conflict)
  • Sprint Reviews whether they were the good, the bad, or the ugly

Just typing that bulleted list gave me anxiety! Luckily, I had studied quite a bit about facilitation and I had experience as a Scrum Master before becoming a Product Owner. Those skills helped me to keep the meeting or Scrum event on track. Facilitation skills helped me to drive the intended outcome that I needed to make my product successful.

Yet there is little emphasis on a Product Owner needing these skills. That has resulted in stale Sprint Reviews across the globe. Those stale Sprint Reviews lead to a Product Backlog that has not been properly adapted to suit your customer. 

So where can a Product Owner start?

The entire purpose of this article is to create urgency around the need for Product Owners to develop their facilitation skills. There is a plethora of resources and materials available on the topic of facilitation. I created a list of four resources a Product Owner can use to get started. Please note this is by no means an extensive list as there are a ton of resources out there. Here are four that should get you going: 

If you are a Scrum Master reading this it is part, of your duties to help a Product Owner learn these skills. Yes, you can facilitate meetings for the Product Owner but you won’t always be there. 

A Product Owner having facilitation skills is an underrated topic I wanted to write about. I’ve seen a lot of Product Owners struggle immensely with these skills. It's time we help Product Owners out and get them the skills they need to be successful.

Post, in comments, additional links to facilitation resources that you have found useful.

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