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Hélènes column: Product Owner wanted!

The other day, another kick-off workshop with a pilot team in hardware. Regarding NDAs, I cannot get into details about the product – nevertheless I want to share with you some impressions. Most people were highly motivated by the product vision. Me too, after a team member had explained it to me but not anymore after I had spoken with the current Product Owner! The team member I had asked about the vision told me the following: „It will be the fastest device ever developed for this production process and we do it for company XXXX, the market leader! The challenges are to realize these production steps but also to make it faster than ever before. And I am quite excited that – by the way – we also try a new way of working.“

I asked the Product Owner the same question, and he answered: We want to develop a device which will contain modules X, Y and Z and use the following technology and the customer wants it mid 2017.“ I gave him a second chance: „What is YOUR vision for the product?“ He answered: „My vision for the project is of course to deliver the product. And it will be great if we can implement 60% of Scrum in this project. I will be happy with that.“

This story points out an issue that – unfortunately – occurs very often:

You can work with or in the most amazing companies, offering the most exciting products (cars, planes, rockets, or what have you) and you will still have difficulties finding real Product Owners, people blazing for the product, able to articulate and communicate a vision and inspire others.

Managers today are mostly focused on managing resource allocation, projects and work packages! Well, I know that most of the companies are project based organizations, switching resources from here to there according to deadlines or resources utilization rate. Switching to a team and product based organisation is one of the biggest challenges. I once again have to refer to Elon Musk as an inspiration for Product Owners because when we listen to SpaceX employees it sounds like this: „There was always this feeling that we were facing a sort of insurmountable challenge and that we had to band together to fight the good fight.“

Musk’s mission statement is impressive: „The only thing that makes sense to do is strive for greater collective enlightenment.“