- The product manager has to work on two areas: Discovery and delivery.
- Most of the time is spent on discovery. Engineers will handle most delivery tasks.
- Product managers that spend too much time on delivery will fail in both areas.
Note: I am using “product manager” and “product owner” interchangeably here.
What’s the Responsibility of a Product Manager?
I like to follow Marty Kagan’s advice that the product manager is responsible for two areas: Discovery and delivery.
Marty wrote a great post about this - and the buzzword is “dual track agile”.
Dual track agile sounds simple, but a lot of things can go wrong. The biggest source of frustration is the time spent on delivery vs the time spent on discovery.
If the product manager is focusing too much on delivery, then discovery will not get enough attention. Some of the symptoms are: Totally overworked product managers and badly defined stories in the cycle. For many stories the business value is not clear, which leads to the implementation of unimportant features.
If the product manager is focusing too much on discovery, then the product manager is not available during a development cycle. That’s also not cool because the team is then waiting for feedback of the product manager. That’s an impediment and slows down the whole team.
How Does a Good Balance Between Delivery and Discovery Look Like
My goal is always that the team - including the product manager - is creating cool stuff. The best teams are not stressed out but deliver great stuff continuously.
There are some patterns that I’ve seen in the past that work. I am assuming that you are using some form of Scrum. But the advice is independent of the delivery framework that you are using.
Pattern #1: Product Manager Focuses Mainly on Discovery
The product manager only participates in a limited amount of meetings. That’s usually the planning session, refinement sessions and review. The product manager does not participate in dailies, retrospectives or any other meetings.
Pattern #2: Product Manager is Always Available If Needed
It’s important that the product manager is still available for the team at almost any time. This helps to resolve questions during development and speeds up approval of a story by the product manager.
A product manager is responsible for two things: discovery and delivery. If you follow the two success patterns then the time investment for delivery will be around one day per week. The rest of the week can be spent on discovery by the product manager.
Relaxed and focused product managers lead to happy and productive engineers. Happy and productive engineers lead to happy clients. And that’s how it should be!
- Image on top by the awesome Brett Jordan