Scrum THIS

Dear Release Manager,

I appreciate that you're trying to do this Agile Scrum thing by the book.

And that it isn't easy.

Because before this Scrum tsunami came crashing down, you mainly tracked the progression of different release documents (Is the PRD done? Check. Is the Functional Spec done? Check. Is the Design Doc done? Check.) and kept the Gantt chart. Your life was more sane. You had time to play in fantasy sport leagues and watch YouTube videos of adorable kittens.

But now, in the Scrum era, things are different. It's not easy. You once had a private office, but you now spend the bulk of your day tethered to a communal table in a stifling hot "War Room," trying to tune-out the arguments between two bro-grammers ("My idea is the most elegant...", "No it's not. It's trivial. You'd have to refactor it immediately."). That plus listening to the documentation writer complain that she can't write the doc by Friday if the product keeps changing every hour. Oh, and not to mention, it's really hard to surf the web with so little privacy; the porn shui of the War Room is completely off.

We product managers all feel sorry for you, Mr. Release Manager. Really.

But just because you are stuck in that War Room doesn't mean the product managers should have to join you. You argue that in Scrum the product manager is the same as the "Product Owner," and therefore the product managers need to be constantly available to the team in order to make on-the-spot decisions within minutes of the asking. Ergo, you demand that all product managers sit in that sticky-note-encrusted, windowless tomb with you all damn day.

Uh, no. Not a good idea.

Why not? Because the product managers need to be the "Voice of the Customer" and the "Voice of the Market". How are they to do that without actually VISITING some customers and prospects? And visiting usually means that they need to leave the office, hop on airplanes, and fly far, far away. The PMs cannot answer questions from the dev team within 5 minutes if they are on planes, or in meetings, or on the phone with customers or potentials.

And might be expected, you then argued that perhaps the PMs should not visit so many customers and should spend more time in the War Room.

Ah, the irony. You're suggesting that those tasked with being the "Voice of the Customer" should have less interaction with customers, all so they can make on-the-spot customer-facing decisions more quickly.

Flawed logic at its finest.


This article was originally published in 2010.

Sue Raisty

Product management geek, born-again engineer, adoptive mother of boys, coach & mentor, mountain trail runner, tinkerer, no-bull communicator, wannabe writer, room mother & compulsive researcher.

Silicon Valley, California http://blog.sueraisty.com