Dear Future Product Owner

Dear Future Product Owner,

Congratulations on your new job.  I want you to play a strong Product Owner role. I am excited about this. We haven’t had a strong Product Owner.

The backlog is yours. You define it: you tell us what you want, and you understand what our customers want. You prioritize it: you tell us the rank-ordered business value of the backlog items. You arrange and lead weekly backlog grooming sessions.

The release plan is yours. You understand the business goals and desired delivery dates. You understand when our customers want what they want. Given the team’s estimate of the velocity at which they can complete backlog items, you assemble the time line, understand its consequences, and collaborate with the team and the customers to reconcile differences. (Our ScrumMaster will assist you with the team’s estimates and velocity.)

Here is some relevant guidance from the Nokia Test:
  • Product Owner has clear product backlog estimated by team before Sprint Planning meeting
  • PO has release roadmap with dates based on team velocity
  • PO motivates team
  • Product Backlog clearly specified and prioritized by ROI before Sprint Planning Meeting (READY)
  • PO has release burndown with release date based on velocity
  • PO can measure ROI based on real revenue, cost per story point, or other metrics
  • PO release plan based on known velocity



Stop wasting your time: use Agile

A colleague writes:
Is Information Overload Wasting 40% of Your Time? 
In general, multiple studies have indicated that >50% of people feel like they are experiencing "Information Overload”. 
At the more detailed level, Basex (a consulting firm that focuses on this area) derived the following from a survey intended to determine “How does a typical professional spend their day”
  • Unnecessary interruptions including recovery time to get back on track – 28%
  • Creating something useful – 25%
  • Attending meetings (some productive, some not) – 20%
  • Searching for information (where on average 50% fail) – 15%
  • Thinking and reflecting – 12%
If one sums 28% (interruptions) + 5% (unproductive meetings) + 7% (failed searches for information), on average one “wastes” 40% of their time!!! 
If each member of a [a company with 120,000 employees] could recoup half of that 40% (20%) would free up 24,000 people worth of productivity and if use a gross estimate of the cost per person at $100,000, the wasted spending is $12,000,000,000.
My response:

Agile addresses these problems.
  • Unnecessary interruptions including recovery time to get back on track: We protect the dev team from unnecessary interruptions. We make the team's process and progress visible so people don't have to interrupt us throughout the day. Want to know what we'll work on for the next couple of weeks? Join us during sprint planning. Want to know what we're working on today? Join our daily scrum. Want to see our progress and status? Look at our big visible burndown chart and task board, on the wall in our big open shared work area. Need the team to do something? Talk to the product owner, and he'll put your request on the product backlog.
  • Creating something useful: We have a strong product owner with a clear vision of what we'll deliver. He keeps a to do list for the team--the product backlog. We prioritize the product backlog, with the most valuable and useful items at the top. We only implement the highest priority, most valuable, most useful items, yielding the highest value and return on investment for our stakeholders. We get it done--ready to be deployed in production--every sprint; it's not useful until it has been deployed and people use it.
  • Attending meetings (some productive, some not): Meetings suck.  We minimize meetings. We have only three required meetings: sprint planning, daily scrum, and sprint end. Everything else is waste, and optional. Ironically, you could also say that we also meet all the time--we are never not in a meeting. We work face to face in an extremely collocated environment, to maximize learning and team productivity.
  • Searching for information: We don't search for information; instead, information surrounds us. We post big visible information radiators in unmissible places--it's impossible not to know our project's status, our task breakdown, what's done, what's in progress, what's impeded. We collocate--it's impossible not to share information, teach each other, and answer each other's questions, almost by accident.
Use Agile, and stop wasting your time.


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