Lean view on Product Owner (PO) role

But they’re supposed to have PO, aren’t they?

In IT enterprise product development, I have found how vulnerable the PO role can be. This is because the demand on delivery team arrives from various sources. Moreover, the demand is not necessarily representing product features, but instead it can be any required service.


If we want to implement PO role in this set-up, the Lean objectives can be impacted because of the following reasons.

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Treating users as players in Agile implementation

Gamification became a main stream approach for marketing as well internal operation of the enterprise. In this post I will talk on one aspect which is understanding the users and categorizing them for Agile implementation.

There have been so many discussions about Agile transformation and how it is eaten by the culture. My argument is that there is only one action we should do toward a company’s culture, which is Respect. Rather than changing the culture, we should focus on more intuitive light weight approach for Agile implementation which is above all should be Fun for the users!

The Agile mind-set changes the roles of traditional project management to become self-organized and team empowerment. For me this is the toughest change and normally takes time. What about if we treated the users (team members, Scrum Master, Business Analysts, UX, Admins and others) as  players?

Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology provides perspective for categorizing players in a gamified system which could be applied to users in Agile adoption.

Gamifiying Agile adoption means creating well designed activities to encourage desired behavior from implementing Agile. The activities should be intriguing to the users so that they are motivated to show the required behavior through implementing those activities.

How a project manager changes so that he can give-up autocratic approach to support empowering a team to sign-off for its own tasks?

The focus should be shifted into designing activities which are rewarding and enabler to the desired behavior. Driven by Bartle’s we could have project managers as:

  • Socializers: Those who primarily want to network with peers in the organization to enhance their Agile understanding and implementation. The human-interaction focus of Agile is particularly appealing to socializers.
  • Explorers: Those who want to explore independently every activity of Agile and to define their role related to each.
  • Achievers: Those who, regardless of rewards, want to prove that they master as many as Agile activity as possible and demonstrate exceptional quality in Agile project management. They want recognition as to be praised by socializers.
  • Killers: Those want objective evidence (e.g. metrics) to prove they beat their peers in implementing Agile.

Gamification activities should be designed bearing the above categories in mind.

At the heart of gamification is the player-centered design which requires careful understanding of Bartle’s categories as it makes sense in the context of Agile adoption.

Let’s respect the culture and center Agile implementation around our players for motivating the desired behavior through having fun!

Culture Change for Agile implementation

A fundamental question here is do we need culture change to:

  1. Be able to implement Agile, or
  2. To produce  real value from Agile implementation

Point-2 is where we should aim. We can have point-1 addressed in the form of implementation of a certain Agile framework with its accompanied ceremonies but yet everyone wonders how we improved.

After reading the Cutter’s blog post here by Christopher Avery I had my own reflections in the next concept map.


  1. As change you should stop asking management to change but instead you be the change yourself.
  2. Sharpen your management skills and avoid getting distracted in technical practices.
  3. Play the role of Agile manager starting with observation without introducing changes.
  4. Maintain Improvement Backlog and watch for improvement opportunity.
  5. Introduce change carefully and succeed.
  6. Collaborate with the rest of managers in the organization to enrich and strengthen Agile management movement. Work with them to effect change at the department level.
  7. The ultimate success happens when executives adopt iterative management framework instead of linear management.
  8. Establish relationship with executives at highest possible level. They will support your Agile change initiative and therefore help the organization brings the highest possible value from becoming Agile.

4 disciplines of execution (4DX)

The 4DX is structured approach for execution to achieve organization’s strategic goals. This post describes synergy of 4DX with Agile product management.

The dilemma is that organizations are not short of ideas and strategy but they lack the capability of execution to achieve them. The 4DX uses the analogy whirlwind to describe the urgency and daily job which distract the organization from achieving its goals.

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Vulnerability theory and the product manager(owner)

The PM/PO is responsible on the project because he sets the priorities of what to be developed, comes up with deadlines, controls the budget, and in same time he is accountable on customer acceptance.

In this post I shed the light on how a vulnerable PO can be instrumental in delivering what the customer truly wants in Agile set-up.

A non vulnerable PO would avoid facing the development team without having first detailed requirements and probably documented use cases. Her strive to be perfect will preclude the project from the tremendous opportunity which can only happen if the “PO changes her mind”. Continue reading