We have a new puppy in the house. Her name is Bailey. I’ve gotten a few books on dog training and they all talk about thinking of things in the context of how the dog sees it. We must think and act the way the dog would in nature. Sounds a lot like personas, doesn’t it? Our marketing and development and sales should be about communicating clearly with the personas. Problem is, I don’t know very much about dogs in nature. I’ve never actually seen a mom with her litter of pups—or a wolf with pups for that matter. I guess I’ll have to start watching the shows on The Discovery Channel.
So if you’re a product manager, you need to understand your audience and the domain. How are you doing this? You should be visiting clients frequently to update your domain knowledge.
The training books also make the point that dogs have clear roles. In this case dogs are pack animals who follow an alpha dog. Uh-oh, I don’t know much but I’m pretty sure that I need to establish myself as the alpha dog. And I don’t really know how to do that either so I’m just being harsh. Is that the same?
Raising a puppy has me thinking about roles in development, particularly agile. In my experience, developers want clarity in roles and clear processes. Developers definitely want to hear the voice of the customer before they start building things. Unfortunately the product manager, who hasn’t established credibility yet, is trying to become the alpha dog by being harsh: trying to control the schedule and the specs and the prototypes. Regardless of your development method, the product manager should be the person who illuminates the market to the development team. In Scrum, your role is referred to as the Product Owner, not the Scrum Lord.
I'll be talking about product management's role in an agile environment in August; click here to sign up for the free webinar.
I believe that the Agile Manifesto is a response to bad management, particularly bad product management. Any of the agile approaches to development are focused on delivering products that work. And the key to delivering products that customers want to buy is for product management to understand the market better than anyone else.