I’ve seen a lot of product teams botch Scrum to the point that it’s unrecognizable. Even now in 2015. I think the issues Adam Pisoni, co-founder and former CTO of Yammer, discusses are due to the misuse of Scrum, not flaws inherent in the method itself.
Used properly, management should not be calling the shots on the priorities. The product owner should make these decisions. A savvy product owner works closely with the team and knows when to give them a voice on the priorities given various technical factors, such as work effort, risk, dependencies, technical debt, etc.
The product owner should also provide the big picture during the release planning. Explaining the vision and goals of the release. And why it’s important for customers. A savvy product owner works closely with the engineers, and involves them in discussions with customers. So there should be no surprises at the release planning.
A real Scrum team is self-organizing and autonomous. The team has complete authority over how it gets its work done. A savvy product owner will protect the team’s independence and will not interfere.
Your turn. Are the issues Adam outlines due to the misuse of Scrum or flaws inherent in the Scrum methodology? I go with the former.
I’m Sorry, But Agile Won’t Fix Your Products
“If you’re competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering.”
~ Jeff Bezos
I’ve worked with people over the years who worry too much about what the competition is doing.
It’s fine to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing. But mostly for the purpose of knowing how you are uniquely different and better.
Wouldn’t you much rather be the pioneer and let the competition worry about you?
Spend your valuable time and energy making better products for your customers. Not watching the competition do it.
Here’s a great article from Dave Girouard, Founder & CEO of Upstart, on the importance of making decisions quickly.
I would add that having a plan, strategy, and context help you in making faster and higher quality decisions. They give you a filter to separate the important from the unimportant.
Having a product roadmap, backlog, and knowledge of the market, for example, give you focus and a lens through which you can quickly process requests that affect your direction and priorities.
Speed as the Ultimate Weapon in Business
“Innovation is not about saying yes to everything. It’s about saying no to all but the most crucial features.”
~ Steve Jobs
A product stuffed with features that are barely used is indicative of a broken process, flawed thinking, or laziness. Often it’s best to do one thing well – better than anyone else.
It takes focus and discipline to discover what’s most crucial to your customers. And guts to stand-up and make the difficult decisions about what gets left out or is less important.
Figuring out what matters most is hard work, but it’s your responsibility to do it. And remember to use this answer when you need it, “It just doesn’t matter.”
Don’t be one of those companies that builds a product in search of a problem. Understand the problem you want to solve before you do any work on your product. Testing the problem you want to solve is the most important activity in product development. Get this wrong and everything that follows is all for naught. You will have built a product that no one uses.
What will your customers say when they see your new product or features for the first time? “Wow, this is exactly what we needed!” “This is not what we were expecting.” Or maybe the dreaded, “This won’t work for us; we can’t use it.”
Congratulations, your potential customers have confirmed that they want your product. That they can’t live without it! Your next step is to define your product in more detail. Which you will need in order to get input and feedback from your customers about what you plan to build.