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Product Owner Accountability Refresh – what is a PO?

Before we dive in, lets remind ourselves of what a Product Owner (PO) is.

According to the Scrum Guide, a Product Owner is defined as follows:

“The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product resulting from work of the Development Team. How this is done may vary widely across organizations, Scrum Teams, and individuals.”

The Product Owner is responsible for:

  • Clearly expressing Product Backlog items;
  • Ordering the items in the Product Backlog to best achieve goals and missions;
  • Ensuring that the Product Backlog is visible, transparent, and clear to all, and shows what the Scrum Team will work on next; and,
  • Ensuring the Development Team understands items in the Product Backlog to the level needed.

The Product Owner may do the above work, or have the Development Team do it. However, the Product Owner remains accountable.

For a comprehensive list of the kinds of things a Product Owner does, check out : What does a Product Owner do?

How to become a Product Owner

How to become a Product Owner – 5 Simple Steps.

The Product Owner is a critical role in Agile and Scrum. And although the Scrum Guide doesn’t give much guidelines around great product ownership, the role is still absolutely necessary for great Agile and Scrum Teams

There is a lot to do to become a great Product Owner and this role is not for the faint of heart. But if you love creating great products and services that delight your customers, read on.

Having trained, coached and mentored a number of Product Owners over the years, there is a clear trend in terms of what great Product Owners do.

 

Get Reading

A Product Owner guides the efforts of their Scrum or Agile Teams. So Product Ownership is all about setting the right direction for valuable products. Its critical then, that you as a new Product Owner should be immersed in solid Product Ownership ideas and tools.

A Product Owner is an absolute professional at what they do. They have to be able to create the right ideas for value and be expert at communicating those ideas to the Development Team. You can’t do that if you don’t know anything about how to do that. Your goal therefore should be to be reading at least 1-2 books per month that help you get better at being a Product Owner.

Remember a great Agile Product Owner should be expert at the use of an Agile framework such as Scrum as well as being able to set direction to generate valuable products.

So there are at least two areas you need be reading about

  • Scrum (or another Agile framework)
  • Product Ownership

Scrum Reading List

If you’re wanting to be a capable Product Owner, you better know a lot about Product Ownership. And you better be good at Scrum. You can pick another Agile framework, but we like Scrum.

You should have a good understanding of the Scrum Framework, its Roles, Events, Values, the Pillars and Artefacts. Here is a solid list of books to get you started in the right direction

  1. Mastering Professional Scrum: A Practitioner’s Guide to Overcoming Challenges and Maximizing the Benefits of Agility
  2. Professional Scrum Team
  3. Agile Leadership Toolkit: Learning to Thrive with Self-Managing Teams

Product Ownership Reading List

  1. Professional Product Owner, The: Leveraging Scrum as a Competitive Advantage
  2. Agile Product Management with Scrum: Creating Products that Customers Love
  3. The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses
  4. Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster
  5. Jobs to be Done: Theory to Practice
  6. Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want
  7. Testing Business Ideas: A Field Guide for Rapid Experimentation
  8. User Story Mapping: Discover the Whole Story, Build the Right Product
  9. Specification by Example: How Successful Teams Deliver the Right Software
  10. Project to Product: How to Survive and Thrive in the Age of Digital Disruption with the Flow Framework

The above is a starter list, remember as a Product Owner you should be continuing to grow your knowledge systematically and intentionally.

Get Training

You’ll never get as good as you can be without learning from others. As such I am always working on attending training classes and advancing my knowledge from experienced practitioners. As a potential Product Owner you should be intent on doing the same thing.

As a minimum you should aim to get the Product Owner training from Scrum.org. If you want to excel, you should be wanting to move onto the more advanced classes for Product Owner.

In addition, its worth learning some solid facilitation skills and training skills from Liberating Structures and Sharon Bowman’s Training from the Back of the Room

Although training is a great way to gain certifications, remember that certs are not the focus. You should be wanting to improve your knowledge and most importantly your practice – you have to apply what you have learned to get better.

Get Community

I cannot tell you how much you will improve by meeting other people on the same journey as you. Meeting folks, discussing Product Owner ideas and learning through each other, really supercharges your progress.

Its tough right now to get out and meet people so do what you can virtually. But as mentioned, Meet-ups are a great way to learn, laugh, share experiences and accelerate your learning. Join Meetup as a first step but there’s also Agile LinkedIn groups too. Get meeting and learning.

Get Experience

You need to get real experience. This can be tricky when you’re brand new. Because most companies want to hire experienced people and most can be risk averse to bringing on newbies. So you have to make it easy for them to take a shot with you.

So How do you do that? Training and certifications really help, as well as having a strong CV with relevant experience highlighting that you have transferrable skills. Going for junior roles or even working for the experience are all options. Be creative, keep applying for roles, reach out to the Product Owner/Agile community, be energetic and keep building your skills while you wait – don’t sit around, be active.

Get Coaching and Mentorship

Product Ownership is a tricky art. And coaching in this space isn’t so wide spread – so you’ll have to be inventive to find experienced Product Owners who may be willing to give you the time you need. LinkedIn is a great way to find experience – connect and talk to people and see where it takes you.

Additionally, find a great mentor. Someone who will share experience and give advice. Mentorship is hugely valuable. Just having someone there to help you along the path you’re trying to tread and having proven answers to woolly problems will accelerate your learning like you wouldn’t believe.

So that’s it – 5 simple steps. The journey is intense, but so very worthwhile.

If you really want to level up your Scrum skills, why not join us on one of our Scrum Training events here  or take our practice assessments.

And finally, to continue learning you can find our blogs here.

Good luck in your Product Ownership journey!

 

Remember that understanding what a Product Owner does in Sprint Planning is key to having successful sprints!

Are you looking for help with Agile training, consulting and project turnaround? Fractal Systems Ltd can provide the expertise to ensure that your Sprint Planning is successful. We understand how important it is for Product Owners to be in control of their product backlogs and have extensive experience in helping teams define sprint goals, create user stories and prioritize tasks. Let us help make sure your sprint planning runs smoothly – contact us today!

Further Agile Scrum Training

 Online Professional Scrum Master Training I (PSMI)

 Online Professional Scrum Master Training II (PSMII)

 Online Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO)

 Professional Scrum Product Owner Advanced (PSPO-A)

 Applying Professional Scrum (APS)