“There is a problem in the industry today.” That line is in itself a great way to start any product pitch, but Marty Cagan, (author of “Inspired” one of the best Product Management Books) used to shed some light on a growing problem in the world of Product Management.
The CSPO Pathology
Interestingly, pathology refers to seekers of the cure, not the disease itself.
In many organizations, the responsibly for Product Management falls on the shoulders of the Product Owner. This in itself is not a bad thing. Especially since the person(s) that invented the role had this in mind.
What is a bad thing, is that, typically, these people receive very little training for this role. Marty points out two main problems with this:
- Product Owners that follow just a CSPO training are ill equipped to handle the broadness and complexity of the role
- Though time is spent on Product Management in these trainings, it is often delivered by an agile coach or Scrum expert and not a Product Management expert
So let’s unravel this and see if we can come up with some ideas to fix this.
Learning judo from a yoga teacher
Question: “would you learn judo from a yoga teacher?”
The answer is probably no. Both sports are based on folding people, the one is less voluntarily than the other. But is is it useless?
Actually, during COVID-19 our yoga classes saw many martial artists join
I would argue that it isn’t. There are a number of learning objectives in the CSPO that can be taught well, even by those without experience in Product Management. A number, but not all, and certainly not all those that you would need to be prepared to be well equipped for the role of Product Manager.
The solution to this problem isn’t that hard. When considering a training, lookup the trainer! I tried this for CSPO trainings offered in my neighborhood and found two trainers that, according to their linkedin profile had experience in actually running a business, both in the services domain and less in say business-to-business or business-to-consumers.
[Disclaimer: I teach PSPO which is not the same as CSPO, so I may have overlooked some of the available trainers.]
However even if the trainer has some real world experience, what does that mean? were they leading a product or just a component? what stages of the lifecycle were covered? and how sure can you be that the right topics are covered in your training?
What is Product Management?
The Scrum guide is purposely incomplete. It defines what a Product Owner should do in the context of Scrum and mentions that they also need to do Product Management. By not defining that Scrum became (more) universally applicable and at the same time.
The same is true for the “Developers.” Though the Scrum Guide talks about the importance of delivering Done increments, it doesn’t tell the team how to arrive at those. No one would expect a (product) Developer to attend a two day training at be a master in how to create product increments. We expect Developers to have additional training in specific subjects like coding, testing, architecture, design, analytics, engineering, content creating, legal, finance, packaging, logistics or whatever skills they need to have to successfully create an increment.
But back to the question at hand: What is Product Management? Since there is no exact definition all we can do is try a to make a model of the profession. As you probably know (“all models are wrong, some are useful”) this is an approximation of the truth.
The core of the role is about communication and entrepreneurship. Product Managers create value by seeking out new opportunities, by finding problems worth solving and communicating that to the rest of the organisation.
Communicate: from the latin verb communicare — ” to make common”
Product Management is supported by six distinct pillars:
- Market; the problem space, the unrealized value, the understanding on what could translate into value
- Product; the end result that solves the pain of the customer, performs the “job-to-be-done”
- Process; the way by which we get things done. Not just the development but during the whole lifecycle of the product
- People; products are typically created by more than one person, meaning we have to find ways to work together
- Business; even with a holistic view you need to make money in order to stay around
- Leadership; if more than anything, Product Management is a leadership role. Leadership of the people, the product and the constant change