80/20 Product Ownership Updates

A few updates on 80/20 Product Ownership, my online course that teaches you how to slice your work at every level of detail to get value and learning faster…

New Bonus Units

Not only do participants get lifetime access to the content, but I also try to make the course more valuable over time based on feedback I get from participants and clients. To that end, I’ve added two new bonus units to the course:

  • “Killing Sprint Zero,” which looks at the practice of Sprint 0, how it delays value and learning, and how you can minimize or eliminate it.
  • “Reporting Release Progress,” on how to report progress on larger releases to stakeholders in a useful and honest way.

Feature Mining Webinar

Of all the content in 80/20 Product Ownership, I’m most excited about Feature Mining, my technique for taking a big idea (a new product, project, release, or whatever) and finding the first high-value, high-learning slices. 80/20 PO is the only place I teach this outside of in-person training and coaching.

On September 18, I’ll be hosting a live webinar on Feature Mining for all course participants who have completed that module. I’ll share more detail and examples of the technique, answer your questions, and provide feedback on your Feature Mining examples, master class style. To join the webinar, you’ll need to have completed the Feature Mining module, including practice activities and quizzes, by September 17. For eligible participants who can’t make the live webinar, I’ll make a recording available so you can still benefit from the session.

Sign up for 80/20 Product Ownership today to join the webinar.

Remote Coaching Offer

Finally, I’m offering a special package for five 80/20 Product Ownership participants.

There’s nothing like interactive coaching to learn these techniques and apply them to your work. Right now, there are two ways to learn this content—through in-person coaching with me or through 80/20 PO on your own. To bridge that gap, I’m offering a new package called 80/20 PO Mastery that includes registration in the online course plus two 45-minute coaching calls with me to help you apply the material.

We’ll work together to schedule the calls for the most strategic times in the course based on your needs. I’ll help you get unstuck, see new ways to apply the techniques to your unique context, and stay focused as you work through the course.

If you want to go through the program with a colleague, one of you can sign up for the regular course, the other can sign up for 80/20 PO Mastery, and you can do the coaching calls together.

Sign up for 80/20 PO Mastery here before it sells out.

Reinventing Organizations Video now with Korean subtitles

Thanks to Hahn Ryu of D.CAMP, our video describing Frederic Laloux’s book Reinventing Organizations and its application for lean and agile adoption is now available with Korean subtitles. To view the subtitles, just click on the “CC” button in the playback bar and choose Korean, as illustrated in this picture by the blue arrow:




D.CAMP is a startup campus in Seoul that is passionate about helping new companies develop healthy, productive cultures from the very start. This is particularly important in a culture like Korea where the notion of rank is deeply ingrained in everyday language. different verbs, etc.

The Context for Agility

Some people learn best by reading. Others prefer video. So, I’ve created a video of my blog post: The Future of Agile, Changing the World of Work. The video puts agility into its historic context, examining the generational waves of new and better ways for organizations to approach their work in a world of increasing pace of change, complexity and interconnectedness.

generational-waves Lean emerged in the 1970s, Agile in the 1990s, Lean Startup in the current decade, and Organizational Agility and Leadership patterns are just beginning to emerge. It seems that it takes a generational turnover for these new mindsets to become prevalent. Continue on to watch the video.

[Read more…]

The Wheel of Change Retrospective

Marshall Goldsmith is one of the world’s leading executive coaches. In his book Triggers, Goldsmith introduces a framework for change that he calls the “Wheel of Change“. This framework provides a great template for a Sprint Retrospective or any similar review for a team or larger group.



Draw and label the four quadrants on a whiteboard or poster paper, and have each participant add at least one sticky in each quadrant. Group and label the stickies in each quadrant to see what patterns emerge, then dot vote the groups in each quadrant to see what ideas have the most energy behind them. Pick one specific action for each area of the quadrant, and then get specific about how that change will play out – who needs to be involved, the timeframe for the change, and how you’ll follow up to ensure the change sticks.

Want Help?

If you’d like some help running this retrospective with your team, or to learn other retrospective ideas, contact us. Our passion is helping individuals, teams, and organizations make lasting, meaningful change! If you think this blog post might be helpful to others, please feel free to share it using one of the social media buttons below.

Reducing the Load on the Product Owner


Product Owners have it tough. They need to spend time and energy working to understand the needs of customers and users. They need to work with the development team to prioritize and decompose Product Backlog Items into small user stories with acceptance criteria. Finally, they need to work with key stakeholders within the business to get budget, garner support for their efforts, and align on how the work of their scrum team aligns with the larger vision and strategy of the organization. Not only does this create a tremendous amount of stress for the Product Owner, but it leaves no slack time. Slack is a key ingredient for creativity and growth, and without that, innovation, value delivery, and personal well being suffer.

At a recent session, I along with my Agile For All colleagues Peter Saddington and Richard Lawrence helped a group to use Lean Thinking, the Theory of Constraints, and the Product Owner Responsibility Matrix to reduce the load on their product owners. Here is our approach. [Read more…]

Early Agile Scaling at Adobe

Scaling agile is a hot topic these days. I’ve recently given a presentation at a few local user groups about the experience of scaling agile at Adobe. The presentation describes early scaling as well as our experience helping a large shared technology group adopt a model using the Spotify Approach as a template. Below is a synopsis of the early scaling approach which naturally emerged at Adobe.

[Read more…]

5 Key Skills Great Product Owners Have

Being Product Owner is hard. Actually, that’s not quite true. Anybody can make a list of things to build, call it a backlog, and bring it to a few meetings every month.

Being a great Product Owner is hard. Development skills are essential, but it doesn’t matter how fast your team delivers and how good your quality is unless you’re delivering the right thing every day. Identifying and expressing that “right thing” at every level of detail is a big job.

To improve our CSPO classes and our PO coaching, Bob and I made a tree of the skills that the best Product Owners use. While there are over two dozen skills on the tree—see, it’s not an easy job!—here are 5 you can work on to have an impact on your team right away.

Skill #1: Clearly express the connections between larger business goals and small backlog items

Many POs are good at making a business case for a project, but end up with a backlog of items that seem disconnected from that larger goal. By the time the team gets a few sprints into the project, half the team (and maybe the PO) have forgotten the business case and are just delivering on the details. They can no longer see the forest for the trees.

A great PO distills the business case into a short vision, makes it visible, and can point to it to explain every little thing on the backlog.

There are lots of ways to write a vision. One of my favorites is a variation on the elevator pitch template from Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm. It goes like this:

FOR target customer
WHO need or dissatisfaction
product name IS A category
THAT key benefit (not key features, but what the features allow the customer to do).
UNLIKE alternative way of meeting the need
OUR PRODUCT how it’s better for the customer than the alternative.

Can you answer all the questions posed in this template? Could any member of your team? If not, you’d do well to fill in the template.

This doesn’t always make the most pithy, literate vision statement—it can sometimes be too formal or clumsy—but I love how it makes you answer some key questions about your product in a couple sentences. A slightly clumsy vision statement is better than none at all. And once you have a draft in this format, you can revise it read better.

Here’s an example for our Humanizing Work Conference:

FOR Agile For All alumni
WHO want to get better at their work
Humanizing Work IS AN Agile conference
THAT allows Agile For All alumni to learn advanced content from us and from other like-minded Agile practitioners.
UNLIKE a public Agile conference,
OUR CONFERENCE is built from the ground up on brain-friendly accelerated learning methods and has attendees who share a common language and understanding of the principles behind Agile (which lets every session go deeper).

This vision gives us a filter for every decision we make about the product. It prompts us to ask questions like:

  • Is that session relevant to Agile For All alumni?
  • Is it advanced content, or would they already have learned it in one of our classes?
  • Is ______ brain-friendly or just how conferences always work? Could we make it more brain-friendly?

Sometimes you have more than one kind of target customer. For the Behavior-Driven Development with Cucumber book I’m writing with Paul Rayner, we’re targeting people in four different roles who have different needs. BDD is a practice for collaborating across roles, so we have to meet the needs of all these roles. So, we drafted four parallel visions, like this:

BDD with Cucumber Book Vision

We had a client in education software who had to do this for students, teachers, and school administrators.

Once you have a vision statement, make it visible. If you’re on a colocated team, make a big poster and stick it on the wall. As a distributed team, we tend to use tools like Google Docs, Slack, and email. But when we’re together, we collaborate with paper.

Having a visible vision statement is great. But take it a step further: explicitly connect the vision to the details in your backlog. Say things like, “We’re doing this user story because it helps differentiate us from [alternative],” and, “Remember, we’re not building this story for everybody, it’s just for [your target customer], so we don’t have to do [some variation your target customer doesn’t need].”

You can practice this today:

  1. Write a vision statement if you don’t have one already. Don’t worry about making it perfect, just fill in the blanks for a first draft.
  2. Make it visible to your team. Incorporate their feedback to improve the vision.
  3. Go through the top items on your backlog. For each one, write a sentence or two explaining how that backlog item moves your product towards the vision.

Learn about the other four key PO skills »

On Human Capital – HR and Agile

Human capital business diagram management strategy concept chart illustration

Human capital business diagram management strategy

What is Human Capital? 

Human capital is just one of an organisation’s intangible assets. It is basically all of the competencies and commitment of the people within an organization i.e. their skills, experience, potential and capacity. Other examples of intangible assets include: brand, software, design, working methods and customer relationships. The human capital asset captures all the people oriented capabilities we need for a business to be successful.

It’s important to remember, however, that individuals are only an asset insofar as they choose to invest their human capital in an organization, which should be encouraged by leadership…

Some people find the term Human Capital somewhat mechanistic, but human capital is not about describing people as economic units (like calling people “resources”), rather it is a way of viewing people as critical contributors to an organization’s success. This then throws the spotlight on how businesses invest in their human capital asset, in order for it to add value. For any commercial organisation, this is an important component to understand. If a company understands how its human capital contributes to their business success, it can then be measured and managed more effectively.

Human capital management is a reciprocal relationship between supply and demand: employees, contractors and consultants invest their own human capital into business enterprises and the business enterprises need to manage the supplier. Any organisation interested in its performance will naturally ask how well they are managing this asset to ensure maximum return on their investment. In the same way, all employees, contractors, consultants and providers of human capital want to ensure they are getting the appropriate return for their own human capital investing through salary, bonuses, benefits, and so on.

Understanding how and why people add value or not to an organisation is an important, and difficult, management skill for the 21st century.

Why is Human Capital an increasingly important issue? 

[Read more…]

Is Aiming For Potentially Shippable Good Enough? [Agile Safari]


What if we used accidentally shippable instead of potentially shippable? Would that help us aim higher?

Tweet the Agile Safari Cartoon!

I was working with some new agile teams and in the process of explaining potentially shippable, I said that it should be okay if it accidentally ships. That seemed to freak some people out. I guess using ‘accidentally’ is not a word people tend to like to see. The term seems to get people’s attention as I’ve continued to use it.

So who is right?  Is the pig right? Are we aiming for only “potentially” shippable? Or is the rabbit? Should completed work actually be ready to ship, even “accidentally?” [Read more…]

The future of agile: changing the world of work

I gave a presentation at the Scrum Gathering in Phoenix AZ about the historic context of Agile and Scrum, and where we are headed next. While agile practices like Scrum and XP are fairly mainstream in software companies, Agile as a mindset is still in the early adopter phase in the business world at large. What can we do to help it “cross the chasm” to broader adoption?

Below are the slides and the talk track. The presentation was in Pecha Kucha format – 20 slides, 20 seconds each on an auto-advance timer, which was a fun challenge to put together!

[Read more…]