Agile Working for Business Outcomes- an Engagement Wrapper

Published: 27th January, 2020

The ‘Daily  Reach’ of the Product Owner

I took a risk and the result the most satisfying webinar of the series so far and long may it continue! The reason being is the idea we discusssed was original and based on the observations of myself and my co-host Craig Jones-Stanley. In addition the growing interest in our webinars meant we had a good size group bring a whole range of experience to the fore. Ranging from Change Transformation, to Learning and Development and specialist Agile Practitioners this was what engagement with Big Picture is all about and we grasped on the opportunity to discuss and practice the topic of the day. Initially beginning with a more general ‘engagement wrapper’ topic we dialled down on the more specific role of the Prodct Owner and what we referred to as their ‘daily reach’.

Defined as the ability of the Product Owner, within a normal day, to maintain connection with the resources required in order to fullfil their role of prioritising the change required in the business. By referring to resources we leave open the possiblity of this being more than stakeholders, people, but given we had half an hour to cover then this was a practical assumption. My experience is that time and environmental factors work to limit this to a lesser group of stakeholders than we might expect or indeed demand. If true to any kind of degree then this raises the question of then what about those that are beyond the ‘daily reach’? Not involved directly nor even to the first degree of seperation it could be said that they be definition can continue their jobs without needing to be involved. My experience tells me this is not the case. With systems thinking, that everything is connected, and the Big Picture values that every employee has a voice we are establishing a need for an engagement wrapper beyond the ‘daily reach’.

Related Experience

We identified other factors that add weight to the need for an additional engagement wrapper around Agile projects. One of which is the language used such as Kanban, Scrum and Burn-down that for those outside the project community can increase mystery and reduce buy-in. We also recognised that the Product Owner is loaded with the needs of the internal project and at the same time the needs and wants of the board.

“I think the main thing that distinguishes agile working and certainly benefits that a lot of business people are seeing is this sense of connectedness, as a team, but also connectedness with the customer. Reinforcing this customer journey, customer experience, customer first principle, and which is, which is the the opportunity, but it’s also a real challenge for some businesses that may still be more traditionally minded, and therefore, typically have an executive sponsor that sits either within the board or in the senior management team wants to direct and control what the project team is going to be doing.” – Craig, Jan 2020

“The biggest impediment that I have seen is the senior management meddling in and deciding what the Product Owner should be working on, so on paper they are ’empowered’ but not in reality” – Heidi, Jan 2020

I think the main thing that distinguishes agile working and certainly benefits that a lot of business people are seeing is this sense of connectedness. connectedness as a team, but also connectedness with the customer. reinforcing this customer journey, journey, customer experience, customer first principle, and which is, which is the the opportunity, but it’s also a real challenge for some businesses that may still be more traditionally minded, and therefore, typically have an executive sponsor that sits either within the board or in the senior management team wants to direct and control what the project team is going to be doing.

This is a topic in itself that we may explore in a future theme for now it serves as a reminder of how many factors the Product Owner has to consider in their role. Their ‘daily reach’ is an inevitable consequence which, in the short time we had available demonstrated with those in the session.

A Practical Demonstration

Starting with the basics, and please follow along, we considered a business that you may be familiar with that has the role of Product Owner on a particular project.

Positioning the Product Owner

Looking inwardly where do you see the Product Owner sitting in your organisation for the project you in in mind. This will help define their ‘daily reach. Consider their position in relation to the project, with a focus on customer value and so the customer journey, and the needs of the board which in Big Picture terms is within the Management area towards the bottom of the board. Further to this consider a Measure that they would hold dear to reflect their thoughts and needs. Place this on the Big Picture board.

Defining their ‘Daily Reach’

Consider the constraints of available time and other environmental factors that the Product Onwer has to contend with. Balancing the needs of the business and the likely keen interest to influence priorities there really isn’t the focus on engagement with others outside their direct circle of influence. Represent this on your Big Picture by drawing a circle around those stakeholder areas you can evidence being with their ‘daily reach’. The question becomes what of those outside?

“.. bizarrely, I’ve got the same shape as you. Wow .. I’ve got the bit down the bottom as development not senior management. I thought that I can same same logic as you that the scope has to cover the whole customer journey. But But product owners presumably As a result of the feedback they’re getting from our customer journey are spending significant amounts of time in the continuous development of the of the product. So they must be engaging with product development, system development semeth development resources to get the thing changing and being incrementally improved over time. So I just put developments as a as a box below operations and I’ve got drew the same shape as you did, but I had that lump at the bottom just just over development” – Richard, Jan 2020

Engaging the Whole Organisation

What and who does this leave? What can you do about it? Consider the need for an engagement wrapper around an Agile project helps others to engage with the project who may not have had that opportunity previously for the reasons described above. If you see the merit in systems thinking, that every thing and one is connected within a business, then applied here we have stakeholders that would benefit with a quickfire and powerful way to engage. We have that on offer to you as the Big Picture offering the Kits, Workshops and Programmes to make it so!

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Why the bother?

When the team start talking, they have a chance to share what they really think, and so:

– They are more likely to be productive in their time with the company.

– The business will enjoy a ready supply of new opportunities each and every time you get to the truth- the challenge is working out what to do with them all! Boss Bill gets the most of her team and is able to translate that up to the board.

– Employees are likely to stay with the company for longer and that means avoiding the costs of rehiring- worse case 6-9 months of an the employee’s salary to locate and train a replacement and 2 years to become fully productive. Not to mention the toll on existing employee productivity and morale.

What we can help you with

Big Picture naturally generates extremely high engagement levels as you provide your people with the tools they require to share useful truths about the business. With light-touch delivery it means you can involve large group sizes, of up-to 20, with no drop off in engagement levels. This results in the highest Engagement levels we have ever seen for People and Business Development.

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The stuff we care about is all over our YouTube channel @YourBigPic. You can have a go yourself by printing and writing on the one-pager here for a business YOU care about. I would love to take you through a taster of Big Picture in a Discovery Webinar you can sign-up for here.

And thanks for reading!

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