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A stepping stone in the river of complexity

One of the more challenging aspects of Product Management is to create a tangible relationship between the work we do today and the business strategy. Product Goals are an often overlooked mechanism that can help you in this area.

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done. Make at least one definitive move toward your goal.” — Bruce Lee

With the release of the 2020 version of the Scrum Guide, we now have Product Goals but what are they? …

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“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you’ve killed my father, prepare to die”

In the classic movie “The Princess Bride”, the lead character gives a perfect description of his role. He opens with a polite greeting, shares relevant personal details and manages expectation. When it comes to Product Owner Role descriptions they are rarely that clear.

Right off the bat, I am no HR, nor recruitment professional but every now and then I get a request for a role description of the Product Owner, and despite the fact that I think the job is Product Management and the Product Ownership is the role on the Scrum Team, many seem eager to get a more detailed description than the Scrum Guide provides. …

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It may be hard to deal with the fact that things will never move back to normal

COVID-19 radically changed our business. I love training and I love to be in the classroom with my students, the interaction, the ah-ha moments, it’s what gives me energy and sharing knowledge is such an amazing thing to be part of. It all broke down early 2020 when we all had to “work-from-home”, but how do you deliver a high impact training with higher scores and passing rates that in-person? Here is what I learned in the last 6 months.

Wait a minute! I’m not a trainer but a Product Manager you may think. In that case this will may help you to deliver the best Sprint Review, Roadmap session, Board Review as possible without being their in-person. …

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How did I end up in this armbar?

When grappling there is only one way to make decisions: you feel them. You can feel the persons weight shift, or notice a pattern in their movement so you observe, order and act. You must act, or you will lose. The brain likes this situation, unconsciously we take 40,000 decisions daily. Given a recognisable pattern and despite calling it “gut” feeling, it is actually your brain will help you out and serving you a preferred choice.

However when the brain can’t find a pattern, it will move to a second mode which I scientifically refer to as: “what the heck?” This is where the system usually freezes and I loose the match. After the match I usually ask: “So, what just happened? Can you show me what you did?” And typically we have time to go through my mistake and I learn something new. …

Sometimes you work for a long time on a product. Let’s say more than a year. And despite all the Sprint Retrospectives you feel the need to take a step back and look at the larger picture, zoom out and see how we have grown over the months? years? What are the trend-lines and what can we learn from that.

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This is also a great moment to bring in all the product teams, and not just the software teams, but perhaps those that helped with launch, shipments, supply, legal, marketing, operations etc. How would you run a Product Retrospective?

Who is here?

In such large groups it makes sense to start off with some introductions. So a liberating structure like Impromptu Networking can help with that. A twist would be not (just) to look for what one brings but more…

I looked a bit puzzled when the student posed her question. Where does one start? but it was not the first time I had gotten the question so perhaps it is good to share some thoughts on User Stories and how they can be useful (or not) for a Product Owner.

User stories, I love them, and I hate them.

Lets start with the fact that Scrum doesn’t talk about User Stories. Originating from Extreme Programming (XP) User Stories were a blessing. Rather that receiving and writing long documents about what the product should do and trying to anticipate all possible mistakes that a programmer or tester could make, we could now have a conversation. …

“So what does that actually mean: Product Owner?” The CEO looked at me and I was not going to get away with something witty, nor with by quoting the Scrum Guide.


The Product Owner is responsible for value, or more perhaps easier put: “product success in the long run.” What does that mean? well, it could be many things: market share, margin, fame, risk reduction, more health, happiness or even being bought by that party with deep pockets.

The concept of Product Owner came to life because in many organisations lots of people are responsible for the success of the product: sales, engineering, marketing, design, support, operations etc. …

“I’m a Product Manager why should I care about the Scrum Guide? Well, most Product Managers are in charge of managing the success of complex product development. Complex development processes benefit from an empirical approach and the Scrum Guide is a handy reference to a framework that can help you with that!

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Product Owner and Product Manager, are we opposing forces?

“Hang on. Scrum has a Product Owner, that is something completely different! I’m a Product MANAGER”. Well congratulations! Product Management is the profession, Product Ownership merely describes the interactions with the Scrum Team and the organisation. …

This Christmas holiday my son and I revisited ancient Greek mythology, in part because I love the stories and in part because he had homework.

By extension I came up with a nice exercise that you can run in your product teams to discover your style, preferred stance and what kind of champion your Mont Olympus might be in need of.

First you need to create the following cards

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First set, back and front

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The Experimenter Product Owner

What is an Experimenter?

Sir Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein and Nikola Tesla; this woman and these gentlemen are considered to be some of the greatest scientists of all times. If it wasn’t for people like Nikola Telsa, then maybe you wouldn’t have been able to read this article and maybe we wouldn’t have written it in the first place. It is these scientists, these innovators and these Experimenters who are the driving force of innovation.

“No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.”
— Albert Einstein —

When taking the stance of an Experimenter, The Product Owner explains what we know AND what we don’t know. They state hypothesis and assumptions, instead of User Stories and requirements. They see the work that the team does as experiments to discover new and hidden value, rather executing and delivering ‘set-in-stone’ work packages. The Experimenter understands that there is more unknown than known and therefore feels the need of trying out new things, explore, innovate, and experiment. …


The Product Samurai

Agile Product Management inspired by eastern martial arts

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