July 17, 2018

The Professional Product Owner and the Three Vs

So Ralph Jocham and I wrote a book called The Professional Product Owner: Leveraging Scrum as a Competitive Advantage. It took well over a year of many late nights in hotel rooms and early mornings on weekends, but we got it done. It was a lot of work, but very rewarding. Getting your thoughts down on paper is a great way to reflect on and sort out the complicated aspects of our industry. This is especially true when collaborating with a partner, like Ralph. The three Vs of Product Ownership is an example of this and is a major theme of our book — and the topic of this post.

A little background first:

Ralph and I are both stewards of the Scrum.org Professional Scrum Product Owner course. Over the years, we have worked with Ken Schwaber and the rest of the Scrum.org trainer community to redesign and modernize it. Ralph and I have taught the class hundreds of times to thousands of students and thought it’d be a good idea to write a book as an ideal companion to the course.

A theme we consistently see amongst our students and the industry as a whole is that the Product Owner role is rarely understood where many end up as requirements secretaries (scribes) or requirements traffickers (proxies), waiting for their next orders.

Our book aims to fill that gap by bringing empowerment and entrepreneurship to the role. In other words, Product Owners should be initiating innovation and functionality, not just receiving it.

When we thought about what a professional Product Owner needs to do in order to achieve this, we came up with the three Vs — Vision, Value, and Validation:

Vision: the best thing a Product Owner can do to truly take ownership and inspire others is to establish and communicate a clear vision for the Product. Why are we building it? Whose lives will be improved by it?

Value: the best thing a Product Owner can do to move away from a project mindset (time, budget, scope) to more of a product mindset (value to stakeholders) is to define and communicate what success looks like. Is it customer satisfaction? Operating costs? Registrations? How will we measure it? How do we know when the value received no longer outweighs the costs?

Validation: the best way a Product Owner can actively manage risk is to shorten the feedback loop by validating frequently with internal experts and, even better, with the external marketplace. A professional Product Owner knows that the only way to move the needle on any value measurement is to release to customers. Until then, everything is just a hypothesis.

A professional Product Owner embraces empiricism as a way to address the complexity and risk of building something unknown. The three Vs fit perfectly with the three pillars of empiricism:

  • Vision creates Transparency.
  • Defining Value provides you with something to Inspect.
  • Validation causes Adaptation.

Using this simple language and approach to Product Ownership has helped me immensely when working with clients and I sincerely hope it does for you too.

For a deeper dive into this topic, our book dedicates a whole chapter to each of the three Vs along with practical techniques for putting them in place.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the three Vs and our book