The Product Owner Is Not The Problem II

Episode 46 - 27 Jul 1985

In Part 1 we talked a lot about step-changes... boundaries... discontinuities.

In this episode we move on to look at a specific team and the quality of their relationships. And ask the question:

Are all of the relationships equally important, or are some more important that others?

Which of the following do you consider to be the most important:

  • Developer to Developer?
  • Lead Developer to Developer?
  • Business Owner to Lead Developer?
  • Business Owner to Product Owner?
  • Product Owner to Lead Developer?


Last time...

Light passed from air to glass. Some was reflected. Not all of the light made it through

An electrical signal passed from one electronic component to another. Some was reflected. Not all of the signal made it through.

This time...

A "signal" will pass between a Product Owner and a Lead Developer.

How much will be reflected?

How much will make it through?

And welcome back to the second part of our investigation into step changes and boundaries.

All this talk of light passing through glass and signals passing through electronic components was all about making two points:

  1. Step changes , boundaries, discontinuities - call them what you will - are everywhere. They are everywhere in nature. So we shouldn't be surprised to find them alive and well in our teams.
  2. Whenever there is a step change, you can expect reflections. You can expect that not all of the signal will get through. You can expect... issues.

My team

Let's bring these guys back

Rather then talk in generalities, I'll talk specifics. The specifics of the team I had in mind when I first drew this sketch.

Let's start with the developers.

These two got on reasonably well. Not much of a step change between them. I'll use this symbol to indicate the (small) step change between them.

These two had a tougher time getting along. I'll indicate that with s bigger version of the symbol.

And these two: not great... but not bad either.

On to the Lead Developer.

This guy had many superpowers, but perhaps most impressive was his ability to get on well with every member of his team. Very little in the way of a step change between him and the members of his team.

The Business Owner and the Lead Developer had their moments. Nothing too terrible or dramatic. But enough to merit a symbol of about this size.

The Business Owner and the Product Owner had worked with each other for a very long time, so the had a very good working relationship.

What about the relationship between The Product Owner and the Lead Developer?

You'll be shocked to learn that it was not good.

Really not good.


This picture shocked me.

I'd gone looking for problems here [the Development Team] ... and found them here [the Business Owner/Product Owner/Lead Developer triangle].

Not what I'd expected.

At this point I felt I'd discovered something profound.

But the cynical side of brain wouldn't let me celebrate: it popped up with the "SO WHAT?" question.

Do the "discontinuities" between these people actually matter? Are they a big deal?

My partial answer is that I think that some relationships matter more than others.

So let's talk about importance.

Starting with theses guys [the Developers].

It's great if they get on. And it's crucial that they get on if they are, for example, pair programming.

Let's say ...medium importance. I'll indicate the importance with this smallish symbol

Next up, the relationship between the lead developer and the the individual developers.

These are relationships that are more important.

Which brings us to the relationships between these three players? [Business Owner/Product Owner/Lead Developer]

For my money, the relationship between the Product Owner and the Lead Developer is the big one.

The communication must be of a high quality - with a minimum of "reflection". Not just from the the product owner to the lead developer, but also from the lead developer to the product owner.

Last but by no means least are the relationships between the Business Owner and the Product Owner and Lead Developer respectively.

These are tricker to pin down.

I've seen more than one team where the product owner and lead developer were trying to do a better job of working together, only to undermined by the business owner at every turn.

For this reason, I'm going to assign a fairly high importance.

Next time

I've run a little long... so I'm gong to break there. Next time we'll do a little more analysis, and then go on to talk about solutions.