In this episode, author and coach Bob Galen helps understand some of the challenges Product Owners face and how to fill in your Product Ownership gaps.


After listening to this episode, you'll understand:

  • What challenges Product Owners face today
  • How the focus for Product Owners has changed
  • How to identify and address your skill gaps


 The Product Owner is a critically important role in an organization.  Even though training and other materials exist to help Product Owners develop their skills, many still struggle in with product ownership.

What makes product ownership so challenging is that they need to interface with external customers, discover what’s truly valuable through experimentation, interface with the team to set the vision, and maximize the value delivered by the team.


The Biggest Challenge

One of the biggest challenges facing Product Owners today is the ability to be effective with crucial conversations.  Having difficult conversations with organizational leaders and customers to negotiate and discuss value and what the team can deliver is a big challenge.

Product Owners need to make difficult decisions and say “no” a lot.  These hard conversations require courage, risk taking, and effective negotiation and communication skills.


Product Ownership in a Nutshell:


The Evolution of Product Owner Skills

When the role of Product Owner was in its early stages in the early 2000s, people needed a team level lens to understand the role.  Most Product Owners focused on a single team and worked with customers to identify valuable products and features.  These are basic skills at a team level.

As the role evolved in the following decade, multi-team planning was needed and release planning and scaling became more relevant.  Roadmaps were needed to align teams and we needed better collaboration between teams to build the right products for our customers.

With the speed of today’s environment, Product Owners now need to expand their focus to include large organizational scaling and planning, user experience (UX), and architectural concerns.  Product Owners must effectively balance and weave together technical or architectural work, quality concerns, user experience, and customer facing features.

We also need better ways of discovering the right problems to solve and finding the right product market fit.


What Makes a Great Product Owner?

The Product Owner role is made up of four skill areas; Business Analysis, Project Management, Product Management, and Leadership.  To be successful, a good Product Owner at least needs to be aware of these four areas and how they show up in each.

They need to understand where their strengths are and where their gaps are.  When they find gaps, Product Owners need to find ways to full in those gaps either through partnership with someone else or through training and practice.

It’s extremely rare for someone to be strong in all four areas.  Being aware of your weaknesses and forming strategic partnerships to supplement your skills is essential.  You can’t go it alone.

Recognizing what you don’t know requires you to be humble and honest with yourself.  Remember that Agile isn’t just about learning; it’s also about doing.  It takes practice.


Listen to the full episode to understand how to overcome the challenges Product Owners face and build your Product Ownership skills. 


Level up your business analysis skills by going to LEARN.BA.  Get the first six lessions in their BA Blocks program for free.


Focus on your skills and build your experience in Backlog Refinement.  This activity involves story writing, estimation, collaboration, emergent understanding, trusting the team, and more.  Review how you’re showing up in the dynamics of backlog refinement and look for improvement opportunities.

As a side effect, improved Backlog Refinement helps execution, delivery, team dynamics, and sprint reviews.


 Links mentioned in this episode:

Bob Galen

Bob Galen

Bob Galen is the President of RGCG, L.L.C., an agile methods coaching & training consultancy. He is a deeply experienced agile coach who is active in the agile community and regularly writes & teaches on all topics related to the agile methods. The new edition of his book, Scrum Product Ownership, focuses on the Product Owner role and driving value in team delivery. He is a frequent contributor to BA Times and often speaks at industry conferences.


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