The Art of Product Ownership: Navigating the Agile Seas

Pirate ship at sea
<p>Pirate ship at sea</p>
Mitch Lacey | Feb 10, 2024

When I was in college, I really enjoyed creative writing. I have since long lost that passion; however, a friend challenged me recently to come up with some fun creative writing. I’ve been struggling, until now.

I was recently re-reading Geoff Watts awesome book Product Mastery to get some inspiration to help deal with a client issue and I had forgotten about the DRIVEN example he came up with.

After a bit of reading, I decided to decompress and watch the original Pirates of the Caribbean. Then it hit me. Pirates + Geoff’s Product Mastery + client issue = fun creative writing exercise. Here goes.

The Art of Product Ownership: Navigating the Agile Seas

As the sun rises over the digital landscape, Product Owners find themselves at the helm of their vessel, the product of destiny, charting a course through ever-changing waters. In this voyage, they encounter storms of stakeholder expectations, whirlpools of conflicting priorities, and the siren call of rapid release cycles. Fear not, fellow mariners! Let us unfurl the sails and explore the art of Product Ownership.

Setting Sail: The Role of a Product Owner

“Decisive with incomplete information. Ruthless about maximizing value and minimizing risk.”  - Geoff Watts

The Product Owner, akin to a seasoned captain, stands at the crossroads of strategy and execution. Their compass? The customer’s needs. Their map? The Product Backlog.

Stakeholder Engagement: Navigating Treacherous Waters

Stakeholders, the mythical creatures who shape our destiny. Like mermaids, they sing enchanting songs of features and deadlines. But beware! Their expectations often clash, creating tempests that threaten project success. How do we steer clear of treacherous reefs and siren songs?

Techniques for Managing Conflicting Expectations

  1. Build the Stakeholder Map: Plot the constellations of influence. Who are the stars? The internal stakeholders, the user groups, the project teams — all valid perspectives. But remember, even the North Star can lead you astray if misaligned.
  2. Prioritize Key Stakeholders: Aggressively revisit assumptions. Who wields the trident of commitment? Whose whispers sway the tides of decision-making?
  3. Develop Your Stakeholders: Nurture their commitment. Like seaweed clinging to the rocks, they offer a reliable pattern of stability.

Managing Conflict: The Tempest Within

“Informed about your product’s domain. Versatile in your leadership style.” - Geoff Watts

Conflict brews like a maelstrom. The company demands budget austerity, the UX designer craves pixel perfection, and the developer yearns for code nirvana. How do we navigate these choppy waters?

The Art of Conflict Resolution

  1. Listen to the Thunder: Stakeholders clash—listen! Their thunderous debates reveal hidden reefs. Seek common ground, like sailors sharing tales around a cup of grog or a game of liar’s dice.
  2. Negotiate Like a Pirate: Parley! Find win-win solutions. The budget may shrink, but the user experience shall flourish.
  3. Build Trust Bridges: Trust, the sturdy planks connecting islands of dissent. Repair them with transparency, empathy, and shared goals.

Prioritization: The Lighthouse Beacon

“Empowering of project stakeholders. Negotiable while you pursue your vision.” * * - Geoff Watts

The lighthouse stands tall, illuminating the fog of uncertainty. Prioritization—the beacon guiding our ship. How do we decide which islands to explore first?

Valuing Short Release Cycles

  1. The Sprints: Like dolphins racing alongside, sprints propel us forward. Slice features into bite-sized chunks. Release early, release often. Each wave carries value to shore.
  2. The MVP Archipelago: Build the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Sailors rejoice! It’s not the grand galleon that will get you there, it’s the nimble raft that reaches new lands.

Finally, The Uncharted Horizon

As the sun sets, our ship sails toward the uncharted horizon. The art of Product Ownership is not a static canvas; it’s a living masterpiece. So, fellow mariners, trim the sails, adjust the rudder, and let the winds of agility carry us onward.


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