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  • Writer's pictureMind Twist

Rules of the game

Updated: Dec 28, 2018

A peek into a Product Manager's mind at the edge of the Agile Business Transformation.


This here is a witty response from Tatiana to Bartosz' 'Yes, I'm a no man' post, which tries to deal with pushback towards business from and Agile Developer point of view. Written around 7 years ago, these articles show you a state of mind in an Agile Transformation that leads to discussions between business and development, opening opportunity for Agile changes that cross the borders.

The Article

We are modern and up-to-date Product Managers. We left old “throw it over the wall” mentality and stepped into Agile World. We got to be called Product Owners. We’ve learned to write stories. We opened communication with our developers, we became one team. Or did we?

Whether it shows or not, they will always have this feeling of superiority towards you, because all population on the Earth in a mind of a developer is divided in 2: those who can code, and those who cannot. And yes, you are in the wrong group. And guess what? They have a right – without them, all our brilliant ideas, which are aimed to improve our business and increase revenue, are just romantic fantasies.

Agile approach liberated them. They actually started to enjoy their work. No, of course, they always loved coding. But now, they actually start to enjoy their work. They started to be and feel a part of this huge machine, which we call business. If before they wouldn’t always understand your requirements, or wouldn’t like it, or would find it stupid – they would grumble about it among them and code it somehow according to their understanding. Sometimes you would be surprised by the outcome. But now…

Has any of the following already happened to you?

You are bringing a new requirement for a new feature or new project, very enthusiastic and suddenly you hear:

– Why do you want to do it?

Or, even worse question:

– Why do you want to do it like this?

Oh, God, is there anything more annoying than that? And you start to recap in your mind all the Business Analysis you’ve done, all the market investigations, all the user tests, all the checks with legal, all the meetings with stakeholders, meanwhile, you are looking at the developer with a doomed regret:

Of course, you are not going to explain all this!

You might pat him on the shoulder with a confident smile, maybe even wink and reply: “Trust me.” Here, it is essential to leave fast, while the developer is still charmed and not able to ask more questions.

They might not come back and code it somehow.

They might come back, and you play the same scenario.

And finally, if they are as confident and fearless as those I work with, they might just say:

“NO, we are not going to do it.”

Always remember what Albert Einstein said:

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

We know we are great at our job. But there is always a room to get better:

Come prepared, and it will pay off. All they want to know is:

  1. What is the problem you are trying to solve

  2. Why is it a problem

  3. What is the goal you are trying to achieve

  4. How are you going to measure success

Developers are amazing people. They keep children’s ability to get incredibly enthusiastic about things they like. If they understand and like your project – they will not just code it, they will make it a piece of Art. Remember, they love to be proud of themselves.

And they will come back with more questions.

For example:

– We can code it in these 3 different ways – which one do you prefer?

Ehm…Do I care? Isn’t it too technical?

In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity – Einstein said.

Thus, yes you DO care, and it’s not as technical as it might seem at first.

Now it’s your turn to ask the right questions. Remember, developers are very educated people and hold a lot of knowledge, but they do not always know how to express it. There can be only one reason for 3 different solutions: a balance between benefits and costs. And your goal is to find the best for your case.

  1. What is the cheapest solution?

  2. What are the limitations of this solution?

  3. What are the benefits of the other two?

Most likely, at the end of this conversation, you will find the best possible 4th solution to the mutual satisfaction of everybody. And there will be no surprises as an outcome.

Developers think that if they stop producing what they call “crap,” we all can move faster into a “Star Wars” alike World which they like so much – with all these space travels and fancy gadgets.

We, Product Managers, are realistic and pragmatic. We have to make them understand the value of our ideas, so they don’t need to produce “crap,” and we can reach our business goals with lower costs.

So, what Einstein had to say about it?

You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.
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