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Steering the Steer Co

Updated: May 19, 2021

Today I’m going to share a #minutewithmarcus thst was actually a few questions over a period for time. my first contact from Helena started with;

“Marcus, I’m reaching out as I really need your help! I’ve been working now as a product owner for 6 months, but close to quitting. this is probably the hardest role I’ve had, despite making great progress with the team I’m really struggling with stakeholders and steering committees. Stakeholders think I’m a Business Analyst and happy to talk to me once and then they’re too busy for discussion. I‘m also struggling with a steering committee where each meeting I’m just directed what the team should be working on. I’m really all out of ideas.”

Now, a couple of things here. Firstly, I genuinely felt so sad for Helena, secondly I’m grateful she was willing enough to share this story, thirdly she was surprised when I told her this problem is not uncommon. I know I’ve certainly felt it when wearing the product owner hat and I can think of many more people who have too. however my advice for Helena turned her story around and remains my go to in most discussions of product ownership.

If we look at investment in building agile capability it typically follows a cycle “let’s educate the team“ if we’re lucky we’ll also get “let’s educate the product owners“ and then these amazing people with new found Language and skills are left to fend for themselves. speaking Japanese in a French company is an analogy I often reference. In any successful transition to new ways of working we need to consider all stakeholders, executive and business and ensure they all receive the right level of education, communication and coaching to help them adapt to the change. otherwise we have an amazing new motor (product owner and agile team) in a traditional car (the environment around them. this was the biggest lightbulb moment for Helena and what started a great initiative of uplifting executive and stakeholder awareness and understanding. I’m pleased to say Helena did stay and is now Chief Product Owner in her organisation. The learning from the story, before we engage those stakeholders lets consider what awareness they’ve been provided and how best we can support them to the transition. my executive stakeholder awareness sessions have gone through many iterations, I was humbled to have the opportunity of helping the chief government pharmacist with awarness building just last week. If I can help you please feel free to reach out.

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