An essential requirement for successful change, and for the projects we do, is the product owner. The role’s importance is not always recognized because it is unknown or not valued, and when it is, it can be a challenge to find someone within the organization to take on the duties and responsibilities.
To get straight to the point: not everyone is suited to be a product owner. It’s a challenging role where you have to understand the organization’s vision and translate it into multiple processes. You have to be continually mindful of where the company will be in five years and how it can get there. The ability to command, as well as being decisive and having the courage to say ‘no’, without antagonizing people is important.
A good product owner is close to the work floor and ensures a better connection between strategy and operations, which leads to increased motivation and commitment. The latter is essential when adopting a change and it ensures better results within a budget and scope. The product owner also gets people out of their ‘silo’ and helps them with the change by making them a part of it. In doing so, any fear, frustration and/or resistance is removed. It’s a challenging but satisfying role because it offers a lot of insight into the organization and what can be improved.
When we explain the product owner’s role to customers, the first response is often that they don’t have one person who can handle it. It might be the case that several people are put forward who usually don’t have time because of their current work load, let alone that they oversee all processes. Everyone in the organization is so busy that they have fallen back into routine and operations. Nevertheless, the project must be started – preferably as soon as possible.
The product owner is sometimes sought externally for lack of in-house options, but that’s not the best solution. After all, someone from the outside does not live and breathe the company’s vision, doesn’t have enough information and won’t have full support from the organization. It’s a bit strange to outsource this role; after all, it is about your company’s future. That’s why you should put your best people forward for these kinds of challenges instead of letting them focus on fixing problems (as we often see).
The ideal product owner
How do you find someone within your organization who is suited to take on the product owner role? First, you need to realize that the product owner can make the difference between a successful or unsuccessful project. Next, you can start talks with potential candidates who are enthusiastic, have a clear vision and the right (soft) skills for the job.
The ideal product owner is communicative, energetic and likes to make time in their schedule to ensure things run smoothly. They’re intrinsically motivated and able to manage the expectations of all stakeholders. To this end, they’re present at meetings, stand-ups and often tour the office to stay in touch with everyone involved in a project. Finally, an eagerness to learn is a vital core quality. It’s okay when a product owner still has something to learn. As long as they have a desire to develop further and enjoy it, certain skills can be honed through, for example, coaching.
Curious to know more about how we approach change processes? Get in touch with us!