Since I wrote the last post – about the ever so common product owner-team gap – I’ve been considering the issue and how to solve it, from what seems to be every angle.
Perhaps the solution is simply, as I stated in the original article, to point out the problem to the involved parties, and make them work on closing the gap by approaching their counterpart. But recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that there might be another problem, just beneath the surface.
When analyzing the problem more closely, the true issue is almost never that there is a gap between the product owner and the team. Instead, the problem is that the product owner and the team does not share a common vision of the product.
The product vision is a goal, a common idea, of what the product will be in the future. It might exist in the form of a prototype, design sketches, requirement documents or (perhaps more common) simply as a more or less vague idea in the mind of the product owner. Now, if the team does not understand, or share, this product vision with the product owner, it is not that strange if the gap occurs. The product owner and the team will inevitable talk about different things, mean different things, because they have have no common ground. So, the first step is thus to establish such a common ground. One way of doing this, is to simply gather the team and the product owner in a room, and workshop until a common understanding of the product vision is reached.
Now, what I have found is that the much more common reason for the product owner gap, is that there is no product vision. There might several reasons for this, but the most common one is that the product owner considers the needs of the stake holders, but does not consider how the changes will work together as a whole. This is, instead, left to the team to figure out. While this might work with a brilliant, dedicated team, it is almost assured that this will fail with a team in a startup phase, or a team that is suffering from some dysfunction.
In this case, it is important for everyone to understand that there will be no great product, unless there is a product vision. Be it implicit or explicit – it must exist – how else can the product owner assure that the right stuff is being built?
Do you recognize this pattern? Please let me know in the comments.