Who is responsible for optimizing value in Scrum? The Product Owner. Originally, I thought that the product managers and other business customers who play this role would love Scrum. After all, it lets them rapidly and flexibly create value-optimized releases.
But many of the business customers who use Scrum aren’t taking advantage of Scrum’s ability to do this. Instead, they are trying to use Scrum to deliver the same releases that they would have in waterfall — only faster. They mistakenly think that Scrum will let them build EVERYTHING faster – not just the high-value stuff, but the low-value stuff as well. And they think that Scrum is also a license to make changes without consequences. This is not how Scrum works.
The Scrum community hasn’t done enough to help product managers and business customers understand how to use Scrum effectively. Most of the articles, books, and courses for Product Owners focus on managing the Product Backlog. There isn’t enough information available on how to manage the actual product, which should be their first concern.
What would the situation look like if Product Owners had all the knowledge and expertise they needed? Product Owners would start to think of the team’s development capabilities as an asset to draw upon, as an inventory of possible features and functions. They could then use Scrum to design releases that delivered the maximum amount of incremental value with each release, ultimately driving customer awareness, adoption, and satisfaction.
This requires a mindset change on the part of business customers. The right mindset involves thinking of a release not as a miracle but as a predictable achievement and planning for it as such.
I started out by working on Scrum. Then I worked to improving the ability of software developers to create done increments within a Sprint (i.e., the Professional Scrum Developer program). Now I’m starting to work on improving the ability of product managers and other business customers to think with agility and make effective use of their Agile teams.
In a future blog post, I’ll discuss how agility is constrained by the velocity of the Scrum team, which in turn in constrained by the team’s skills and — more importantly — the quality of the existing software. Agility is not a pig on roller skates.