Sam is a strong product owner with clear focus on customer priorities. He interacts with customer and user groups regularly and is committed to adding value to them. He drives the priorities for three different scrum teams and demands high standards from the teams in terms of output and quality. He often finds that teams consistently deliver short of what is planned for in a sprint – only 40-50% of planned stories get completed.
In the meantime, John, Engineering unit head, is receiving complaints from architects and central quality functions that their priorities are not being completed and team is only trying to please the product owner.
John is puzzled by complaints from all these groups. He is also under pressure from enterprise technology group to refresh some of the legacy technologies used by his unit. From his skip level meetings, he has learnt that the scrum teams are working hard and have sought his approval for allocating half-a-day per week for learning new things.
What would be your guidance to John to transform this situation to one where value is being delivered and the stakeholders are happy?
- Help John realize that he cannot keep all internal stakeholders happy all the time. His priority needs to be to keep value flowing to his customers continuously.
- He needs to help the PO realise that sustaining flow of value is not just about meeting the immediate needs of the customer. A product needs to be continuously shaped to deliver future needs; risks that could disrupt customer operations should be minimized along the way. Demand from technology group, architects and central quality functions fall in this category – these can reduce risks, enable faster delivery in the future and create the platform for innovations.
- John could set up a collaborative process that would enable periodic conversations among the stakeholders to resolve the priorities and force rank the backlog items for each scrum team to work on. He should expect the Product Owner to play the role of moderating these conversations and take a balanced view to sustain the flow of value.