Refer to the blog “Writing a book – how Agile can it be”. In that project context, Salma Sultana, an artist in Bangalore was hired to draw the illustrations for the book working with the developer (author) and the Product Owner all in Bangalore. Salma came with strong references
The author (a sort of self-managing team member) expected that the two artists would engage in healthy conflicts and great illustrations would emerge as a result. However, the reality was that there were frequent clashes between the two artists and the author was dragged in to adjudicate every minor aspect. Salma told the author that Jenny did not understand the book as she should have, coming up with bizarre ideas and getting picky about Salma’s work. Jenny on her part told the author that she was much more experienced than Salma in book illustrations but she (Salma) was very opinionated and did not listen to her ideas with an open mind. Much time was being frittered away in unproductive discussions and back & forth. Neither party seemed to keep in mind the time-to-launch objective for the book.
The frustrated author not wanting these distractions wanted the PO to step in and manage the situation.
If you were the PO, would you sign up for this? If not, why not? If yes, what would you do to alleviate?
Regarding the first question – whether if you were the PO, you would sign up for resolving the conflict between the two warring artists – Salma and Jenny. The classic Agile answer is NO – that is not the PO’s job. However, I do not think that can be the only answer. There may be sound reasons for the author to ask for the PO’s help. Maybe the PO is a much-respected artist himself and may be in a better position to talk sense to the two ladies. Or the PO may have a prior personal
Having agreed to step in, the PO needs to ensure that the two artists understand the impact of their perpetual and unhealthy conflicts – impact on the author’s time and on the book’s progress. Maybe they just do not look at the situation from that perspective at all. Their individual work may have become the be-all and end-all for them. The PO could perhaps share with them the overall “release plan”, goals and the current RED status. Along with that, he needs to make clear the author’s expectation for “healthy” conflicts. Hopefully, this will bring in better alignment
The PO should also look at the causes
In addition to the above, the two ladies should be encouraged to come up with their own “rules” or norms for working together. Like for example, a common set of do’s and don’ts – such as proactive communication, no personal attacks, mutual respect etc. The PO can facilitate a session for evolving these rules and norms.
Finally, the PO should make sure that the situation is improving – say, by looking at the number of issues which get “escalated” to the author or to himself. At the same time, it should not result in absence of all conflict – with one party meekly submitting to the other to the detriment of the quality of the illustrations. The PO can get a sense of that by dropping in on their meetings and also, looking at the quality of deliverables and
It is critical that the PO consciously withdraws himself as progress is made.