May 16, 2018

Writing a book is more about learning for yourself than externalizing your knowledge

"PSPO Book"I recently finished writing a book with fellow Professional Scrum Trainer, Don McGreal, titled,  "The Professional Product Owner: Leveraging Scrum as a Competitive Advantage." I learned a lot from this experience and wanted to share it here. 
 
Being agile for over 20 years, working with Scrum for over 18 years you kind of believe that you have been there and done that. However, going the extra mile and to putting your thinking onto paper has a much deeper impact than what I would have been willing to believe beforehand. In the end writing this book was as much a learning experience for myself as I hope it will be for the readers.
 
Here a few learnings addressed in the book:


Product Owner is not an agile project manager
The Scrum Team in Scrum is composed of three roles: the Development Team, the Scrum Master and the Product Owner. In my experience the role of the Product Owner is just accepted without a second thought; it is often understood as the person managing the implementation of the requirements. However, the Product Owner is so much more. He/She is the person literally owning the product, owning all aspects of the product, owning all past, current and future decisions. Owning the product also means that a Product Owner is also accountable for the very product. There are no excuses, the Product Owner is the one which job it is to maximize the products value.

Product over project
A project manager does a great job when delivery happens on time, on scope and on budget. Whether the right thing is delivered can be second thought. This is where I see Scrum implementations often fail as the Product Owner is often considered as the project manager. A project is driven inside out as the scope, schedule and budget are fixed before all the learning starts. New insights are usually considered a nuisance attacking the plan. 

A Product Owner drives the product from the outside in. Continuously mapping the market and its changes, the stakeholders and their feedback and all the other shifting factors into the product. Thereby adjusting the scope, the schedule, the budget again and again. This ongoing learning is the engine to maximizing value - enabling business agility.

There is always a product
What if I don’t work on a product? As long as there is a producer and consumer with a perceived benefit, there is a product. If there is a problem clearly identifying the product, this is a sign that product ownership hasn't moved up high enough the value chain. Far too often product ownership takes place on minor components than on real customer centric value domains - the product.

Product thinking allows for effective scaling
Instead of orchestrating and managing schedules, components and their interdependencies a Product Owner's product mindset allows for independent frequent delivery of value to the customers. This product thinking puts a challenge on the supporting engineering practices. Handling these is far from trivial, but once they are understood and the enterprise is able to scale the products correctly and independently they have a leading  edge -- the producer and consumer feedback-loop closes.


tl;dr
The topic of product ownership is so amazingly interesting and the more I dive into the topic, the more layers I investigate the more I understand how crucial this topic is. This book is intended to open that door for the reader in the same way it opened it for myself. Be warned though, that once you step through, a new vastness will reveal itself. 
This book is now available for pre-order at a 35% discount here. It will also be available on Amazon and other retailers.