45. The Agile Product Owner Is Not The Problem // It's not unusual for Development Teams to consider the Product Owner to be the source of... issues. But in most cases, the real source of the problem lies elsewhere.
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Some 18 months ago, I was trying to work out why a development team - my development team - was having such a hard time getting things done.
It wasn't for a lack of talent. Nor was it for lack of teamwork: we worked well together.
At the time, I blamed the Product Owner. He seemed to go out of his way to make life difficult for us.
But the real source of the problem wasn't the Product Owner.
The source of the problem was... an interface.
All is revealed in the video. It's a little bit "out there"... but I hope you'll enjoy it.
If you sit here (Development Team) Or here (Lead Developer) And things aren't running as smoothly as you would like. You may be thinking that the Product Owner is the source of your woes. Perhaps your Product Owner really is Evil. But it's more likely that your problem lies... Elsewhere. Reflections --- The mind works in strange ways. (As least, mine does) A few weeks ago, I was walking through the Inns of Court here in London. Headphones on, listening to a podcast. An actor was being interviewed. I don't remember his name. Might have been Albert Finley. Someone of that ilk. Whoever it was, he talking about a new role. I wasn't really paying attention. They were saying something about spectacles (glasses). How the choice of style was important in establishing the character And also, due to his advancing years to be able to see the other cast members clearly enough to be able to read their expressions. And then he said something that stopped me in my tracks: "I can't wear my own glasses, because of the reflections." Brainstorm ---- That line was enough to jolt my brain into action In a matter of seconds I got from Reflections all the way to Product Owners. As tenuous connections go, it's right up there ;) "Of Course!" --- My first thought was: "Of course reflections from actor's glasses would be a problem." I wondered why I'm never though of it before. Light ---- My second thought was a picture like this. (I should point out at this point that I'm a physics grad... so pictures like this are often in my brain!) This what happens whenever light encounters a boundary: a portion is reflected and - assuming the second material in translucent - a portion in transmitted. the proportion that is reflected is determined by the refractive indexes of the two materials. "Eureka!" ---- My third thought was "I know how to reduce the reflection". Imagine adding a layer of material with a refractive index roughly half way between that of air and glass. We've replaced a large step change with two smaller step changes. Although this adds an extra reflective surface, when all the calculations are done, more of the light gets through... and reflections are reduced. I know what you're thinking: why stop at one layer Why indeed! Turns out that you can get even more light through by applying a coating that continuously varies the refractive index. More light is transmitted. Less light it reflected. "Impedance Matching!" ---- My fourth thought and this one is particularly weird - was... Impedance Matching. (I told you there were some strange thoughts in my head.) Here's a electronic component It sends a signal to a second electronic component. at the boundary, a certain portion of the signal from the first component makes it to the second. That's a good thing. And a certain portion is reflected. That's a bad thing. The proportion that is reflected is determined by the DIFFERENCE in the RESISTANCES - more correctly the IMPEDANCES - of the two components. Sound familiar Yep, it's another discontinuity. Another step change. In this case, the solution is different to solution used for the glasses. The components are designed so that the OUTPUT resistance of the first component is as close as possible to the INPUT resistance of the second component. "What Else " -- My fifth thought was... I wondered what else is like this What other things where there is an interface - a discontinuity, a step change - where performance can to improved by: smoothing ... like the glasses or matching ... like the electronic components Scribble ---- My brain provided a perplexing response: this scribbled drawing. A drawing that I'd done MONTHS earlier. It wasn't as abstract as it looks: the sketch represented a real life team. A team ... of which I was a member. A team... that was struggling. There
Your question has caught me a little off-guard: the thought of not having a Lead Developer has never even crossed my mind. I've never been in a development team without one; I've never heard of a team without one. None of which means it isn't an anti-pattern!
I don't have the experience to say that, but I haven't found that role described outside recruitment ads (and your work here), and I have found people arguing strongly against titles. I feel that it would lead to less commitment and ownership.
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