Inspect and Adapt for Agile Product Managers

As organizations make their movement from Waterfall to Agile software development, a shift in culture takes place. One discipline that is most affected in this whole change is Product Management. They have to cope up with the demand for more releases within the same time and each release has to have meaningful content.

I have tried to list the traits needed for a successful Agile Product Manager here.

  • The clarity for the near term goals along with a vision for the medium term.
  • The ability to constantly prioritize and groom the product backlog so that the most important business requirements are placed at the top.
  • The ability to split requirements into granular user stories so that they can be completed within a Sprint. An epic user story can be big and spread across Sprints, but each user story should be granular enough to be implemented within a Sprint. See related video blog here.
  • The ability to resist pressure and temptation to add new features when the product needs a boost on stability and performance. See Product Manager: Are you going feature crazy
  • The guts to push back to the business when their needs are unreasonable. The guts to shield the delivery team from any disturbances outside of the team in such a way that the team does not get distracted from the Sprint goal.
  • The ability to convey back to stakeholders that the most urgent feature requirement that has come up can be taken up in the next Sprint only and not right now when the team is in the middle of a Sprint developing another important feature critical to the roadmap.
  • The discipline to be ready with user stories and associated user experience screens at the time of planning an upcoming Sprint.
  • The readiness to de-scope part of a user story or a low priority user story if the team is facing roadblocks and not able to maintain the required pace on a high priority user story due to technical roadblocks. The ability to listen and understand when a team brings an issue up front and provides an alternate approach.
  • Similar to the one above, the Agile Product Manager should be available and open for discussion if the delivery team is hitting a wall on a feature implementation and wants to discuss alternatives.
  • The guts to not accept an unfinished user story and not sound harsh at the same time.
The key mantra in Agile Product Management is ‘Inspect and Adapt’. Once committed to, this translates to getting feedback on the product at the end of each Sprint. Even better, if this feedback can be sought from end users and stakeholders. It then becomes imperative to have one or two user stories in each Sprint that are potentially shippable and can be shown to users. This exercise provides the stakeholders with confidence and provides the product with immediate feedback.

Do let us know what you think.

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One thought on “Inspect and Adapt for Agile Product Managers

  1. Pingback: Scrum sequencing over coffee. | My experiments with SCRUM

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