In November of 2020, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland released an update to the Scrum Guide. One of the changes they introduced was the Product Goal. This is a change which, to me, seemed like a brilliant way to keep the Product Backlog focused on achieving a measurable outcome, but at the same time, it seemed at odds with how I had come to think about and work with a Product Backlog. For the past few months, I’ve been speaking with Agile and Scrum thought leaders in podcast interviews, trying to get my head around the concept. All of the conversations have helped me deepen my understanding of this topic, but the ones I have had with Don McGreal reshaped how I understand the way that the Product Goal impacts my entire understanding of a Product Backlog and how to work with it.
Don McGreal is the VP of Learning Solutions at Improving, the co-Author of The Professional Product Owner book, the co-founder of TastyCupcakes.org, and a Scrum.org Professional Scrum Trainer. He’s also a really nice guy and he was kind enough to spend some time talking with me about the Product Goal.
In this interview, Don shares how 4DX has impacts his approach to Product Ownership, working with the Product Backlog, and how it fits with the Product Goal serving as a measurable step towards achieving the Product Vision. As Don and I continue the discussion we explore some of the choices that Product Goal is going to force you to make about how you work with a Product Backlog. For example:
If the Scrum Team is focused on one Product Goal at a time, and all the work in the Product Backlog should serve the Product Goal, what do we do with technical debt?
If you are trying to get your head around Product Goal, this interview is going to pose some important questions that require you to reconsider how your team (and your organization) works with a Product Backlog, what jobs you are hiring it to do, and how to be disciplined, but not dogmatic in your practice of Scrum.
Sanjiv Augustine took a break from putting the finishing touches on his new book From PMO to VMO: Managing for Value Delivery to join me for an interview about Value Management Offices.
“A Value Management Office is a cross-functional, cross-hierarchy and cross-silo team of teams.” This is a group with representation from across the organization. It is comprised of individuals who act as “linking pins” that work together to help the organization achieve business agility.
During the interview, Sanjiv breaks down how this group advocates for all levels of the organization and can develop a more holistic view of how to help the organization shift towards a more adaptable, self-aware approach to work where voices from all parts of the company have a shared voice in achieving strategic goals.
Sanjiv also shares a message of hope for any project managers out there who are “running for their lives” and see agile as a threat to their livelihood. There is still a lot of work to do, possibly even more so if your organization is moving towards agile.
Links from the Podcast
TLDR - My podcast interview with Scrum.org CEO Dave West on the Product Goal - what is it, how do I work with it.
In November 2020 Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber introduced a new version of the Scrum Guide. There are a number of changes they introduced to Scrum in the update, including the topic of Product Goal.
Here is what the Scrum Guide says about Product Goal:
“The Product Goal describes a future state of the product which can serve as a target for the Scrum Team to plan against. The Product Goal is in the Product Backlog. The rest of the Product Backlog emerges to define “what” will fulfill the Product Goal.
A product is a vehicle to deliver value. It has a clear boundary, known stakeholders, well-defined users, or customers. A product could be a service, a physical product, or something more abstract.
The Product Goal is the long-term objective for the Scrum Team. They must fulfill (or abandon) one objective before taking on the next.”
Initially, I found this mildly at odds with respect to how I tend to think of the Product Backlog - as a set of options... all the things we could do. And the more I tried to understand it, the more I felt it slipping through my fingers.
I've raised my concerns about the Product Goal in a few other interviews recently, but I got to a point where I knew I needed help getting my head around it. So I reached out and I am deeply indebted to the folks from Scrum.org who were kind enough to share their time and wisdom with me.
This interview with Scrum.org CEO, Dave West, is the first of a few podcasts I am going to post on the topic. Dave not only helped me get a better understanding of the concept, but he challenged me with something towards the end of the interview that helped me shake off my dogmatic blues and re-embrace the idea of Scrum being a framework that is meant to be adapted.
Links from the podcast
Previous Interviews that involve Product Goal:
If you'd like to contact Dave West you can find him here:
From 2019 to 2021 Melissa Boggs served as Co-CEO and Chief ScrumMaster for the Scrum Alliance. Earlier this year she stepped down from her Chief SM role and took on the position of Vice President of Business Agility at Sauce Labs. AFAIK, Melissa was the Chief ScrumMaster ever so I wanted to check in with her and see what she learned during her time in the role, what advice she could share for those headed down that path, and what new challenges she’s taken on since she started her new gig.
What is truly powerful about this interview is how open Melissa is about the things she learned about herself on this journey. She offers a great example of brave vulnerability and shows how, if you are in the business of helping others transform, you have to be willing to develop an inner sense of personal agility as well.
Links from the Podcast
This episode features an interview with Dan Eberle. Dan is an Agile Coach, working at the New York Times and leading a few Agile-centric communities of practice. I recently attended a presentation Dan gave on Agile Coaching as part of Access Agile's Agile 20Reflect Festival (https://agile20reflect.org). Dan hit on some very impactful topics during the session so, I asked him to join me for an interview about different aspects of Agile Coaching. During the conversation, we discuss different coaching stances, how to develop your skill with employing them, how to measure your success as an Agile Coach, how being an internal coach differs from coaching at a consulting company, some tips for those moving towards a coaching role, and things to watch out for as you head down that path.
Dan's Meetup Groups