Stuff Bad Product Owners Say

Global Scrum Gathering Pheonix – May 6, 2015

Open Space “Stuff (SH*T) Bad Products Owners Say”

Convener: Bob Galen

List of Participants: yes, lots

Discussion and recommendations:

Format: 3×5 cards – write:

a)    some bad statement a P.O. has said

b)   some context

c)    what would be a better way to have said it, or what would you say to the P.O.

Cards submitted:

(Did not capture “Better options” for each and every card – perhaps those that attended could send additional inputs to ?)

Said:                      “I told the customer we could pull this into the sprint now.  That’s cool, right?”
Better options:     Don’t!  Let’s trade x for this.  Let’s trade 2x points for this.  Is this a real emergency?


Said:                      “Go faster”
Better options:     Ask: How can I help us go faster? What can we trade?…


Said:                      “I don’t care [about the things we have already committed to]”
Better options:     Why didn’t this come up 2 weeks ago?  The team needs to finish something to stay motivated.  Let’s get this ready for next sprint.  Blue pill/Red pill challenge.


Said:                      “We can’t have all engineers talking with the stakeholders; we may as well get rid of the product team”
Context:                Said to prioritization team on getting better feedback loops
Better options:     


Said:                      “We can’t have engineers talking with the stakeholders.”
Context:                P.O. feeling out of the loop or defending his position
Better options:     Include the P.O. in the engineer/stakeholder conversations.  There’s a demo for that (those discussions)!


Said:                      “Build it like this ….” (suggesting a technical solution)
Said:                      “Implement this using … “
Context:                P.O. is also the Subject Matter Expert.  Trying to tell the “how”
Better options:     Here’s a suggestion.  Here are some options. Lets do an experiment first.


Said:                      “I don’t know why we are doing this” and/or “I don’t agree with this story but we have to do it anyway”
Context:                During grooming
Better options:     Then this is not “ready” to be scheduled – we don’t know its business value.  How does this add value to the customer?  How does this add value to cleaner code or infrastructure?


Said:                      “I will not pay for technical debt stories”
Better options:     If I care about business outcomes help me understand the value of doing stories for tech debt.


Said:                      “Teams should get zero points for defects”
Context:                P.O. doesn’t understand what points are for.  Using points for performance credit rather than capacity and flow.
Better options:     Have a discussion to explain how the team uses points to estimate


Said:                      “Teams should not be allowed to change points once the release started”
Better options:     What are you trying to baseline – features or delivery date?  Have a discussion around who owns the estimates and what they are for.


Said:                      “I don’t want external customers on the sprint review because teams didn’t know how to talk to them”
Context:                Developers are lacking social interchange skills
Better options:     Teach mediation skills.  Teach impact feedback skills.  Teach asking questions.  Teach listening skills.


Said:                      Complaining about team performance
Context:                Talking to others outside the team e.g. other P.O.s or management
Better options:     


Said:                      “I just wrote this story before sprint planning and we must do it now”
Better options:     Wee need the team time to refine this first.  This will set a bad precedent – please only make changes at the beginning of a sprint.  Lets move this to the next sprint.  This story isn’t ready – they team hasn’t had time to review it and muse on it.


Said:                      “We have to give an estimate without having all the requirements”
Context:                Demanded by the P.O.’s boss
Better options:     Brake down into tasks leaving question marks on what is ill-defined.  Throw the boss a bone to get more details.


Said:                      “I want the UI to sparkle like a Tiffany Diamond!”
Context:                (Actual user story)
Better options:     Do a spike to create a sample and see if it sparkles.  Investigate what “sparkle…” means.  Field trip to Tiffany’s.  Discuss – how will we know we are done?  Or how will we test this?
Said:                      “Why do I have to write the user stories, isn’t that the teams responsibility?”
Better options:     Remind the P.O. that the “O” in “P.O.” means owning the product.


Said:                      “I estimated it and it doesn’t match your estimate – you are way to high”
Said:                      “That should be 3 points and not 8!”
Better options:     Why do you think so?  Remind the P.O. who owns the estimates.


Said:                      “I want all of these stories, so I’m not going to prioritize them”
Better options:     


Recap – what a bad P.O. should do more of in order to become a better P.O.:

Allow experimentation

Be available as a P.O. the team

Ask questions instead of tell or demand

Get P.O. education on Scrum

Support the team and remember you are a key part of the team.

Support the team by giving the team time.  Rem that introverts (most developers) need time to process and think alone before contributing to the group

Manage the stakeholders

Don’t bully the team

Use “the board” to show real readiness (show the story not being ready and what needs to be done)

Say Thank You to the team – often

(Respect, Trust, … etc.)




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