Efficient and Useless
Product owners are responsible for much of what gets done on an agile team – from defining to prioritize the order of stories, we have “great power”…and you know what that means…yes, Spiderman, “great responsibility”.
In Charles Duhigg’s new bestseller “Smarter, Faster, Better,” he talks about how the corporate world’s famed SMART goals (that’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound) can lead to lower productivity. Specifically, when people focus too much on making goals SMART, and not enough time making them meaningful, those people can end up very successfully completing their completely useless objectives.
What’s a Product Owner to do?
Like the brilliant Tony Stark, we need to be SMART, but according to Duhigg we also need to be wise. Not an acronym. Just be wise. Your stories need to be tied to meaningful outcomes, not just easy or achievable outcomes. As a PO influencing the work of many others, this is really important. Sometimes that means prioritizing tough technical challenges early because they result in the greatest value, and sometimes it means challenging whether a story needs to be done at all.
In the book Duhigg goes into depth about starting with “stretch goals” and then breaking off bite-sized chunks of the stretch to make SMART goals. If you find yourself struggling with your own efficiency or the team’s, this is a good book to read.
So take the time to go beyond efficiency for its own sake. You may be the only one standing between the team and a huge waste of time. Good luck, we’re all counting on you.