At my workplace we’ve recently started following Scrum and Kanban. I head the product management team with 2 newly minted product owners. They used to be a product manager and sales engineer respectively. One has limited experience with Scrum, the other none. So how to help them find their footing in their new role?
There’s a lot to learn from trainings and books, but there’s a difference between hearing and reading about what an agile workplace is like and experiencing the reality of it. That’s why I contacted my PO friends at my former employer to see it they would let them take a peek. They would. (Thank you!)
A crate of Füchsen changed hands and N. and N. got to observe a planning meeting and afterwards asked scores of questions. They returned completely psyched: “So that’s what it’s like, when it’s ‘finished’!”
Then at last week’s agile meetup, Sven mentioned that he’d like to do a similar exchange, but that it can be difficult to find a partner, if your company doesn’t have several people in the same role and you lack connections to other agile companies.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a place to look for such exchange partners? Our neighbors, the Software Craftmen, are already talking a lot about craftsmen swaps. We could copy that and make it more broad. Swapping jobs for weeks might work for Coaches and Scrum Masters, but is probably difficult for Product Owners. For them Pairing or even just passively observing are more viable options that still provide valuable insights. And while we’re at it, let’s include the lean practitioners as well!
There are many ways, such a platform could work. Here’s my concept:
Feedback is important. Only by knowing how our actions affect others do we know what works and what doesn’t. Feedback becomes more effective, when it is frequent, timely and specific.
Giving feedback only at quarterly or yearly reviews wastes a lot of time during which people could already have improved. Weekly One-on-Ones (that I recently proclaimed my undying love for) are a great opportunity to provide or get feedback.
You don’t have to wait for the One-on-One. Give feedback when the event occurs and both parties still remember what it’s about.
“The was a great presentation!” is not as helpful as “The part with the examples was great!” is not as helpful as “The part with the examples was great! I think this helped everyone to orientate and get started quickly.”
The “specific” bit is the one I struggle with the most. Fortunately the following three feedback models help me with that:
1) Situation – Behaviour – Impact
Applicable after you’ve witnessed specific behaviour. Even suited when you do not have formal authority with someone, because you’re not telling them what to do. You merely mirror their behaviour back to them as factual as possible.
- In the meeting, when you started to sketch on the whiteboard you really helped getting everyone on the same page.
- In the meeting, when your cell rang and you answered it, it distracted us all a lot.
2) What worked well – Even better if
Have you ever had regular One-on-Ones (“O3s”)? If not, I think you’re missing out. Mark Horstman and Mike Auzenne describe them as:
- 30 minute conversation every (other) week
- Between a manager and one of her team members. (Each team member gets their own O3 each week.)
- Default time division: 10 minutes team members topics, 10 minutes managers topics, 10 minutes for coaching or mentoring
Now that I finally experienced O3s, I agree with Mark and Mike that they are the “single most effective management tool“.
Here’s what I think is awesome about O3s for the team member:
- It’s a very close feedback loop – You always know whether what you’re doing contributes to the company’s overarching goal
- Which for me goes hand in hand with “Having Purpose”
- Validation – You are important enough for your boss to take time to listen to you
- Guaranteed sync point – You don’t have to disturb your boss because you know there’s a time to tackle all non-urgent issues in the O3
As the manager you can: Continue reading
[English Summary: I've translated Henrik Kniberg's excellent "Product Owner in a Nutshell" into German. Next post will be in English again, pinkie promise!]
Kennt ihr schon Henrik Knibergs exzellentes Video zur Rolle des Product Owners? Falls nicht, lege ich es euch sehr ans Herz. Jetzt sogar auf mit – frisch übersetzten – deutschen Untertiteln:
Ich bedanke mich herzlich bei Cédric Chevalerias für die französische Datei als Vorlage und hinterher das Video mit eingebetteten Untertiteln.