StrategyDec 05, 2011

The Failure of the Agile Model: People

Brad Buhl

Have you ever found yourself in a sprint planning session where the Product Manager is out of touch with the technical prioritization requirements based on business needs?

Or has your scrum master turned your daily standup into a by-the-book sound off of ‘the pigs’ with no input before or after the meeting from ‘the chickens’?

Do you even care about what farm animal you’ve been assigned?!

The People Problem: No Clear Product Owner

Your organization may espouse using an Agile methodology, but without a clear Product Owner, you may as well follow a waterfall approach because you’ll need that extra documentation to justify your project decisions!

Generally speaking, a Product Manager’s job is to be the “voice of the customer,” while the Product Owner (and in Agile terms Scrum Product Owner) is the one who has the authority to prioritize requirements as the voice of the customer. The key, then, is decision making authority.

It’s the Product Owner role which is most needed in the Agile model as the link between the business and technical groups, and the Product Owner role that is most overlooked throughout the Agile lifecycle.

Straight Up, Now Tell Me: Is It Gonna Be Project Change Forever?

For many organizations which have Project Manager (PM) groups and desire a more Agile approach, integrating a Product Owner along with a PM can be accomplished with clear delineation of responsibilities as follows:

Though specific responsibility steps will change depending on organizational structure and business, the concept of the Product Owner taking responsibility for the business objectives and Project Manager taking responsibility for the technical delivery is one easily digested by most organizations, whether using a straight-up Scrum or modified Agile approach to their projects.

In the end, Agile is espoused to be….well…agile. From that perspective, it’s important to not get tied up into titles and organizational structure. Rather, the ability to empower the decision making process through clear responsibility and accountability (suggested here in the Product Owner role) is the key. Stay tuned for the Agile Process failure, next in the series…

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