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Oct 01

Challenge intellectually

Challenge your team intellectually or they will challenge themselves in ways you wouldn’t have chosen.

Don Wells wrote about this on his blog a couple of years ago.

I stumbled upon this proverb and liked it. But I got some questions that made me have to explain why.

As a product owner it is important to know what you want. But the role as a product owner is not easy. You are the middle man between the customer, who in most cases likes to decide as late as possible, and on the other side the team who needs to no where to go. If you fall behind with your planning and decisions it is very hard to keep up to speed and the team might end up waiting for work. Or they just keep working on stuff they already delivered to make it better. You might see this as gold plating.

But there is also the risk of having too much ready to be picked up. Working ahead of schedule so to say. That may happen sometime but you need to keep your pace steady. A little slack is nice but teams need to be challenged or they will try to find their own way and might run of the track. Is that agile? Sure it is. Agile does not mean that everybody is just doing as they please. I often get remarks that when you push a team it is the same as being a project manager. I don’t agree. A little push or motivation is good. As long as it is pressure in delivering quality work. If you don’t push or better yet, challenge. You will not get quality.

You probably won’t get this when a team is very skilled and senior, but this not often the case. When they are skilled they can challenge themselves and deliver quality work. But when you work with a junior or mediocre team, you need to focus them on the work at hand and not so much about what’s coming in the future. But it is also very important to avoid dogfood, working on the same stuff day in day out and not provide any change or, and there it is again, intellectual challenge.

The intellectual challenge for the product owner is to provide global information about the general goal of the project and a clear end if possible. And always have a clear and well-thought idea about the main priorities.

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