This is the final (?) post in the series of Product Ownership learnings and conclusions as I have them learned so far. It has been a while since part 2, but there is an obvious reason for the long silence period. I have been thinking and trying to understand 2 fundamentals in product and service development at scale:
- How do you scale up?
- What is the real purpose of Product Owner when connected to previous?
Scaling up is scaling down
It is more clear than ever that large corporations who try to introduce new hope in means of Agile, Lean or systems thinking into their operations will fail. There are several reasons for this, the most obvious ones are connected to business at scale. 21st century knowledge related work (and business) does not require “economies of scale” or “cost optimization”. Neither does it need resource optimization towards existing business but rather building on great people. When you put people doing the value work in the center, directly confronting the customer, you`ll soon understand that two teams will be able satisfy the customer better than two divisions. Of course these teams are special teams: they are consisting of people who have “special powers”. They eat and bite the work at hand easily, they understand the business as they are natives in it, they love their work and they want to share success. In short: their values are different from what traditional corporations possess. The biggest obstacle for achieving this is power. Static organizational structures try to keep existing power structure untouched. Scaling down requires power distribution, not power decentralization. This is the main reason scaling agile is mission impossible for most of the big players. I will write more about power distribution and knowledge work in coming posts.
Product Owner is always a proxy role, that is not needed at all when business at scale is understood, designed and applied correctly
When people are in the center we are moving into new era: people business. Why on earth someone would like to introduce any delay between needs and their fulfillment? When power in the organization is dynamically and evolutionary distributed, most of the proxy roles disappear. I believe this will (and shall) happen to Product Ownership and it will happen to many other coordinating and decision-making roles as well. The final stage of the evolution in the Product Ownership is to realise extinction: the work is distributed between people and therefore this dysfunctional role is not existing any more.