Skip to main content

Pearls of Wisdom from Stacey Weber

Are you an executive who has recently adopted Scrum or another agile approach to product management and development?

If so, Pragmatic Marketing's Stacey Weber has some important observations that will help you understand the roles and skills you'll need on your team. (See my concise description of Scrum first.)

First, your product manager (often equated, unfortunately, with the product owner in Scrum) should focus on the problems to be solved, not features:
How often have you already envisioned the solution before you’ve stated the problem? Begin with the problem-oriented requirement: “Every [frequency], [persona] has [problem] with [result].” Then work with a user interaction designer or business analyst to define the solution.
and
Take a look at your team’s backlog. Is it features? Or, even finer-grained tasks than that?

A Product Manager’s primary responsibility is to know the market – to discover urgent, pervasive problems that people are willing to pay to have solved.

We are generally not trained or necessarily skilled in the area of design.
Second, you need an interaction designer on your team:
The designer should be in charge of the translation of market requirements into features. In an agile environment, that means that the designer must work with the Product Manager to understand the market requirements and their priority –and then lead the team to turning the problems into features and sprints that make sense. This must be done in close conjunction with the project manager, to ensure that the product that comes out the back-end makes sense, and provides maximum impact in the target market segment.
Third, be careful with your product backlog. If the backlog contains requirements (i.e. problems to be solved), the product manager prioritizes them. If the backlog contains features, a designer works with the product manager to prioritize them. If it contains development tasks, then perhaps the project manager should help prioritize them.
In an agile environment, that means that the designer must work with the Product Manager to understand the market requirements and their priority –and then lead the team to turning the problems into features and sprints that make sense. This must be done in close conjunction with the project manager.
Bottom line: don't let process obscure the focus on delivering real user benefit, and make sure you have the right skill sets on your team.

Comments

Stacey Weber said…
Thanks for the kind words, Roger, and I agree that executives should pay attention to your tips. If we "go agile" without considering the skills that are truly required to build great products, we are heading down a rocky road.

Popular posts from this blog

Why Spreadsheets Suck for Prioritizing

The Goal As a company executive, you want confidence that your product team (which includes all the people, from all departments, responsible for product success) has a sound basis for deciding which items are on the product roadmap. You also want confidence the team is prioritizing the items in a smart way. What Should We Prioritize? The items the team prioritizes could be features, user stories, epics, market problems, themes, or experiments. Melissa Perri  makes an excellent case for a " problem roadmap ", and, in general, I recommend focusing on the latter types of items. However, the topic of what types of items you should prioritize - and in what situations - is interesting and important but beyond the scope of this blog entry. A Sad but Familiar Story If there is significant controversy about priorities, then almost inevitably, a product manager or other member of the team decides to put together The Spreadsheet. I've done it. Some of the mos

Henry Ford's "Faster Horse" Quote

You may have heard the ( apocryphal ) Henry Ford quote: If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have said "a faster horse". Over at the On Product Management blog , Saeed gives his take on this infamous quote. He "hates" it, and gives some compelling reasons. Saeed is spot on in his explanations. Personally, I think the quote is great, but it's a matter of interpretation. The valid point of the quote is not that it's a bad idea to facilitate a conversation with your market to better understand it. The valid points are: You must ask the right questions to get valuable answers. You must interpret the answers thoughtfully - often outside their direct meaning - to glean reliable information. Asking questions is not always the best way to "listen" to your market. (E.g., sometimes pure observational studies are more reliable.) Nonetheless, I find the quote is helpful to combat "armchair product management" in the

Stop Validating and Start Falsifying

The product management and startup worlds are buzzing about the importance of "validation". In this entry, I'll explain how this idea originated and why it's leading organizations astray. Why Validate? In lean startup circles, you constantly hear about "validated learning" and "validating" product ideas: The assumption is that you have a great product idea and seek validation from customers before expending vast resources to build and bring it to market. Indeed, it makes sense to transcend conventional approaches to making product decisions . Intuition, sales anecdotes, feature requests from customers, backward industry thinking, and spreadsheets don't form the basis for sound product decisions. Incorporating lean startup concepts , and a more scientific approach to learning markets, is undoubtedly a sounder approach. Moreover, in larger organizations, sometimes further in the product life-cycle, everyone seems to have an opinio