In my last post, I described how Agile methods aligns individual and organizational goals by focusing people on their responsibilities in getting product out the door. This post explores a particular role that has all but vanished in traditional phased projects: product management.
“I don’t care what it takes, this needs to be done by the end of the quarter. I don’t know what you expect me to do, you’re the programmers!” Sound familiar?
This statement sums up much of product management as we know it today. It’s a shameful expression of a quickly sinking profession. Rarely do product managers take any role in actually managing the product. Rather they cave in to stakeholder requests and promptly dump the associated risk of delivering on those commitments to the development organization that has no say in the feasibility of the resulting projects. The subsequent decrease in quality, missed deadlines, and loss of market share are cause enough to reverse this trend.
One way to accomplish just that is to introduce Scrum, an Agile project and product management framework. The product management role in Scrum has a distinct responsibility to make real decisions concerning scope and schedule. In Scrum it is expressly forbidden to thrust decisions and risks inappropriately on other roles. Software teams commit to delivering product increments each iteration, and product management makes decisions about how best to utilize the team’s forward progress. But the product manager understands and respects the team’s capacity and limits.
Oh, but this means product managers will have to say “no” to their stakeholders, or worse still, think creatively and collaboratively with the team to devise solutions to difficult problems! I hope that’s not asking too much, but in case it is, one could always go back to the same-old-same-old failed projects. Of course, that means losing market share to the companies actually doing Scrum.