You’re all geared up to kick off development of your new project. You’ve hired the team, set goals, and even chosen the perfect product owner (PO). You want the team to be successful, and know that the product owner is key to that success. But there’s one more thing to consider when helping ensure a smooth project — what can you do to make sure the PO will be successful?
Select only one product owner
Making decisions by committee is not only excruciating, it just doesn’t work. Avoid this pitfall by having only one product owner who makes final prioritization and scope decisions. It’s okay, and actually quite helpful, to have a committee of people dedicated to providing input for the product owner. But empower your PO to be the sole decision-maker.
Back them up!
Once your PO makes a decision, show your support. There’s nothing more frustrating than being given the power to make decisions and then having those decisions undermined by others. If there’s something that you question about their decision-making style, have that conversation in private. However, when you support your product owner — both privately and publicly — you give them the confidence they need to continue making tough decisions.
Give them time
Product ownership is a full-time job. If your PO has other responsibilities, work with them to make sure that they’re dedicating enough time to the role by offloading other tasks or providing additional help for other work. Since responsibilities and workload can fluctuate, meet regularly to ensure they have the right balance of hours and feel supported.
How a product owner interacts with the team is nuanced and sometimes counterintuitive. After all, if they “own” the product, shouldn’t they be able to interact any way they want with the team? Maybe they can, but that doesn’t mean they should. Teams perform best when they are trusted to do their jobs, and they work at a sustainable pace. It’s in everyone’s best interests, especially the POs, to know how to walk that fine line.
Provide them with ongoing training
While agile development theory is relatively simple, it’s not always easy to execute. Even if your product owner has previous experience in this role, it’s always good to have a refresher. Providing this type of ongoing training will help your PO stay focused when things become complicated. And they will become complicated! Give them the tools they need to navigate those difficult waters.
Strong, collaborative product owners can lead to a great product and a healthy agile team. Put the right person in place and provide them with the right support — and look forward to bragging about the great product you’ve built.