The Product Owner Role

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Objectives: To learn about duties of the product owner role, and the importance of communication.

Timing: 25 – 35 min. Highly depends on the number of participants.

Materials: Paper, Tape, Scissors, Markers, Paper people (3 people per team, ideally 8-10cm height x 6-8cm width).

Number of Participants: At least 4. For larger numbers, split in teams of 3 to 5 people per team.

Excerpt: This game is perfect to express the duties of a Product Owner, not only for those that are running that role, but also for any other that works with scrum (Developers, Stakeholders, Managers, etc.). The idea is to focus on what the PO must do for the success of the project, but also what the PO must not do!. The subsequent dialogue is what adds value.
Visit the execution results in the Open Space UY 2014!

Instructions: The idea is to go through 3 sprints in which the teams must construct a plane. Every sprint lasts about 3 minutes, while the reviews last about 2 minutes (could change based on the teams’ size).

Every team will be self-organized, without SM (for simplicity), and the organizers will be the PO. The more teams per PO, the better for the example purposes. The idea is that the PO won’t be available for the team during sprints.

Only the review is going to be included within the game in order to make it quicker.

 

Sprint 0

Ask the participants to split in teams of 3 to 5 people.

Sprint objective: To explain the business.

“We are an aircraft company that sells airplanes to different companies. We build aircrafts based on a deep understanding of the customer needs. We will be constructing a new aircraft to transport passengers and cargo, with a pretty new design; and that is why we are hiring you (the team) to build it. We are very committed to the Scrum methodology, and we believe in the value it gives to our process!”

 

Sprint 1

Sprint objective: To ask each team to build a fast paper plane with two wings, which must fly at least 5 meters.

Provide them with paper. Assuming they are engineers, they will manage to build the best airplane. The less information given, the better.

During the sprint: The PO will tell them how to fold the paper (Says how to do it).

Review: During the review, the PO will use some paper people (nobody knows that paper people exist) and will try to make them fit into the plane. As there will be no place for people, the PO will do his best to make them fit into the plane. It is supposed that the paper people will fall when the PO throws the plane with them inside.

 

Sprint 2

Sprint objective: To ask each team to improve the plane in order to hold at least three paper people inside, and remind them that the plane must fly at least 5 meters; to provide them with paper people. Again, assuming that they are engineers, they will manage to build the best airplane. If the team asks for something to attach the people to the plane, supply them with tape.

During the sprint: The PO will press the team due to customer complaints and demands after they fell from the aircraft during the early version test fly (Push the team).

Review: During the review, the PO presents Tim Jhonson to the team, the CEO of Blue Airlines. Blue Airlines is the very first customer of this new design. Tim likes the design of the plane, but needs the plane in blue. He complains about the color; the current design is perfect for a White Airlines company, which actually exists, but not for his company. Tim asks the team to make it blue, and leaves the office, really upset with the team and the aircraft company achievements.

 

Sprint 3

Sprint objective: To ask each team to paint some parts of the plane blue, in order to make Tim happy. Provide them with a blue marker. As usual, assuming that they are engineers, they will manage to make it look great.

During the sprint: Tim arrives at the office and tells the team the aircraft design must have their logo on the wings.  It is very important, because they need the logo there! Tim shows it to the teams, and leaves the office (Change the sprint scope).

Review: During the review, the PO presents the product to Tim Jhonson, and he agrees with the result. The PO congrats the team. Later, the CEO of the aircraft company realizes that the gained value is far from the one expected, and the result is not what the company wanted, i.e. “a new aircraft to transport passengers and cargo”. The created product does not follow the vision, an epic (but common) error of the PO.

 

Final thoughts

Ask the participants to express

  • What happened
  • How they feel
  • What they think about the process, PO, Team, Stakeholders
  • What about the duties of the PO ?
  • Any other concern they may have.

 

Learning Points:

  • During the entire project: In every sprint, the PO is not available to answer any question.
  • Sprint 0: The PO is not clear communicating the vision. He does not make emphasis on the value!
  • Sprint 1: During the sprint, the PO tells the team how to do they work.
  • Sprint 2: During the sprint, the PO pushes the team.
  • Sprint 3: During the sprint, the PO lets Stakeholders push the team, and changes the sprint scope.
  • General: As the PO is not committed to the value and the vision, the results are not valuable. The value gained after the project is not as expected.

 

Variants

  • Color: The color of the airline will depend on the color we can obtain. If we have only red pens, we will be changing the color of the airline to Red Airlines.
  • Artifacts: The artifact could be an airplane, car, or whatever can be made with paper in less than 3 minutes. The people could change to other elements depending on the artifact used.
  • Graphic artifacts: Add some graphic artifacts in order to give the team members an even stronger pressure from the company they are working for.
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