[Bernardo Heynemann] Dream Team – Part VII – Ownership

Introduction

The INews team has reached an important milestone. Four of the team’s values are defined and understood.

This time they are talking about a very controversial topic: product ownership.

Who owns it?

John – Hey! How are you all today?
All – Good!
John – I was reading an awesome article last night. It was so good I felt like calling you guys immediately.
Susan – What was it about?
John - About product ownership. The idea here is that you push product decisions as close to the people working with them as possible. The company is responsible for setting the context that allows those people to decide.
Jake – What do you mean by context?
John – The company is responsible for setting strategies and broad scope goals, as well as providing the team with whatever other intel they might need – financial, internal, market share, marketing, you name it. If the team needs that information, they should get it.
Christian –
Ok, I totally agree with that. I’m still wondering about the ownership part, though.
Susan – In the last event I attended, Wackile – agile for the wacky – I saw a brilliant presentation about how projects are killing agile initiatives. Projects are tricky beasts. They have start, finish and handover. At first there’s nothing wrong with that, except there’s no incentive whatsoever for developers to choose long term decisions. They’ll be long gone by the time their decisions affect the product.
John – I see. Well, Chris, what I meant with ownership is that we as a team should be the ones deciding where the product should go. Not someone with no context about the intricacies of the product. What Susan just pointed out just reinforces the need for the people working with the product to feel part of it.
Jane – I couldn’t agree more. As an experience designer I get to decide quite a few things about the product. Sometimes, though, I wish the team had more freedom to choose their own path.
Joseph – I’ll get Daniel here as I believe he’ll be able to tell us whether this value is aligned with the company’s values.

Ok, you guys don’t know Danny, but he’s a great CIO at Acme. He really fights for his teams, in order to provide them with the best possible work environment.

Daniel – What’s up guys? What can I do to help you?
John – Hey Danny. Thanks for joining us in so short notice. The thing here is we decided as a team that one of our values is that we want to own the product in the lean sense that we get to make product decisions…
Daniel – While the company sets the context, right?
Joseph – Right.
Daniel – Perfect. No problems with me. I’ll get our CEO buy-in. As a start is there any intel I can help you with?
Susan – Hi Danny. Actually, there is: Other news companies’ market share on mobile news delivery.
Daniel – I’ll get you guys that info asap. Now I gotta run. See you all. Take care.
All – See ya!

“What a great guy!”, I think to myself.

Joseph – I guess we just got another team value: we own the product and we’ll take care of it thinking about the long run.
Me – IMHO this was the best meeting so far. Danny is the best.
Joseph – That he is, Bernardo. That he is.

Conclusion

The people who are more qualified to make important product decisions are the same ones working with it on a daily basis. They know all of its intricacies and constraints.

Why risk having someone that does not fully understand the issue deal with it?

Yet, most companies keep pulling decisions up in their hierarchies, trying to protect their products from the poor judgement of their employees.

Not trusting the people doing the work to make decisions results in shallow decisions and lack of commitment by the people working with the product. Short-term actions are made, the product evolves in unintended (and bad) ways and eventually people want to get out of the product team. At some point a major redesign and rebuild is needed.

Have you guys ever seen this?