Re-inventing (Agile) Product Management

As I participate in various Agile professional and networking groups, I often leave the meetings wondering why the Agile community is re-inventing product management, one step at a time.Re-inventing Agile Product Management

Is it because we’re doing such a terrible job?

Or is it because they honestly don’t know that the role exists?

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a bit of both.

Many individuals bemoan that Product Owners are very tough to find – “the business” won’t supply them.  And when there are Product Owners, they seem to be powerless to do much more than elaborate stories and suggest what goes in the next sprint (and might end up being wrong about that!).

The Scrum Product Owner role is a a near-sighted attempt to supply a Scrum team with good guidance from a subject matter expert. The fine technical leaders who shaped this role did it from their own perspective, and seemed to not grasp the whole picture of what it takes to make a product or application produce maximum business value over the long run – concepts like product life cycle, product strategy, and launches.

That’s not to say that smart people can’t figure this out – they have.  But why re-invent the wheel?  Not only has product management been around in software companies for 25+ years and even longer in consumer packaged goods and other industries; there is now a body of knowledge that outlines the core processes and concepts for product management.  Even many Product Managers don’t know about the ProdBOK; many have not been to any training; and most have not been to training recently.

That said, good product management is hard to find.  I hear over and over again from Agilists that their Product Managers aren’t paying attention to customer feedback, don’t have time to spend with the team, and regularly blow up sprints and releases with scope creep and radical priority changes.

But none of those complaints are specific to Agile.  As any Product Manager will tell you, the scope of product management was too broad before Agile came along.  And when the organization wants Product Managers to also be Product Owners, the time demands are simply overwhelming.

Good Product Managers and Product Owners can and DO exist, but only because smart people have invented many wheels.  Existing CSPO training is insufficient for the longer-term, strategic aspects of the job.  And some Product Management training providers haven’t acknowledged that some processes and techniques DO need to change when the development team goes Agile.

Agile leaders and coaches, stop re-inventing – and start advocating for training in Agile Product Management as strongly as you advocated for CSM and CSPO training for your teams!

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