Ah, the age-old question: just how much of an impact can a strong, skilled product owner truly have? Well, let me tell you, it’s a whole different ball game. If you let engineers be engineers, they’ll do the engineering. It’s quite straightforward to get a group of people to build a lot. Engineering teams, coders, software teams, testers – they all want to get through the work. They want to build a lot. But here’s the catch: it’s not always the right stuff. It’s not always valuable. It’s often just what customers have been asking for, which isn’t necessarily what’s best.
Now, an average product owner, they’ll be focused on being that funnel for the organisation. They’ll take customer requests and turn them into stories. But a truly great product owner? They’re looking forward. They’ve already delegated the day-to-day to their team. They’re peering into the future, thinking about how to get things in front of the customer at just the right time. Because when a customer asks for features, it’s already too late. There’s a delay, a cost of delay, between the ask and the delivery.
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Great product owners are always a step ahead. They’re looking at the market, the state of the organisation, the strategic direction of the business. They’re building experimental features to see what resonates with users. They’re solving future problems and testing ideas. So, when a customer does ask for a feature, the answer is, “Would you like us to turn that on for you?” Or even better, “It’s already there.”
There’s a book called “Crossing the Chasm” that touches on this. It’s about not just building for the laggards, the ones who want the basics, but for the early adopters. Because what early adopters want today, the laggards will want in six months. Engage with the early adopters, and they’ll tell their friends, the laggards, about all the cool stuff that’s coming. It’s about planting seeds, leading the market rather than following it.
The mark of an exceptional product owner is anticipation. Using evidence-based techniques and hypothesis-driven engineering practices, they’re always one step ahead. The ultimate accolade? When competitors look at what they’re doing and think, “What are they doing? Let’s build that.” That’s when you know you’re leading the market, not just following it. And that, my friends, is where we all want to be.
NKDAgility can help you.
These are the kinds of issues that lean-agile practitioners love and most folks hate, and if you struggle to empower your Product Owners, my team at NKDAgility can help you or help you find a consultant, coach, or trainer who can.
If you have issues that are undermining the effectiveness of your value delivery, it’s especially important to find help as soon as you can and not wait!
Which you can do right now. You can request a free consultation with my team or sign up for one of our upcoming professional Scrum classes. Because you don’t just need agility, you need Naked Agility.