Beyond #Lean and #Agile

Marty Cagan inspired me to write two cents about my view of “beyond lean and agile“. I don’t have the experience like Marty, only 10 years in product management and 3 years as a product owner. Marty also pointed out how important the understanding of product managers vs product owners really is and how essential they are for building good products.

Lean and agile folklore

Lean and agile are being used very inflationary in daily business. People cover a lot of their actions under the cloak of lean, agile, scrum or whatever buzzword, which has nothing to do about it. And I totally agree with Marty from my experiences on user groups that “Agile is actually practiced in most product companies is hardly Agile in any meaningful sense“. Most companies introduce agile workstyles based on an agile framework, but they only live a “folklore” in the style of “scrum, but(t)…“.


Example for an agile process:

I really don’t like fundamental discussions, it is not everything about participating the regular ceremonies. For me it is a lot of accountability about the product and self organisation of the team to maximise the outcome for customers, who really use the product. Please be fair and stay save to be able to look into a mirror.

“ScrumAnd…” is more experienced while using multiple agile methodologies for your daily work. I’ve found a great overview about agile methodologies which I’d like to share:


So, I am asking myself about the stories of product managers and owners. What I am observing is the lack of empowerment into product managers and owners to do their job. A colleague of mine once came from an event with the right question:

Are you as a product owner in the position to discontinue the work on the product and cancel it? If you’re not legitimate to do so, you’re not the real owner of the product.

This definition might be extreme and wide, but the question absolutely describes the influence and power a product owner role needs. On the other hand, I hardly even met people with the title and the empowerment to do so. Marty Cagan described two more ways in his post behind every good product which lead to success. For myself, I prefer to do my job, but this is an utopia, because real world scenarios need coordination with the CEO/CTO and other stakeholders. At least this must be possible to build a good product.

Decision making

Another important dimension is the way how decisions are made. Again, decision making comes with the empowerment of the team and lead. From my perspective again decision making is business critical. The more accountability the team has, the more freedom and trust in their work is needed to let go. This usually come with a top-down vs bottom-up culture. Delegation boards might help to make the degree of empowerment transparent and grow the maturity in the future through regular revisits. Michael Sahota also shared his thoughts in a presentation on slideshare:

Intrinsic motivation and attitude

Motivation is the most important impact for the team as an individual. It all comes with intrinsic motivation taking responsibility for the product and the team. You need people and colleagues with the right attitude to help and serve each other and the customer first. Of course every day is different, but I highly recommend working on your daily attitude. This creates the company culture and which is read only. Everything which is extrinsic motivated like orders through authority of how and what to do, might frustrate the individual and violates the team structure and motivation. It is not about making people accountable for something. You’ll find more literature about positive error management and how to celebrate them in agile practises like for example at M3.0.

Conclusion and recommendations

  1. There is no blueprint nor right way to practise and introduce agile. Be careful about losing people within an agile mindset and don’t waste your time in living a folklore rather than focussing on what really is valuable for the team, customer and organisation. Agile is a mixed form of multiple methodologies that work out for you. Agile is not about maximising the output of a team, it is about maximising the outcome for the customers.
  2. How empowered is the team and your product owners? Are they only administrating a backlog and requirements or are they able to tackle and solve difficult problems for your customers and your business? It’s not all about the team, make sure to strengthen your product owner. Find a way to delegate and balance decision making. It is the most important way to make progress.
  3. Motivation and attitude are very important for teams and individuals. Find ways to support team members and colleagues. If they don’t fit, talk with them and find a way how to to solve it, even an exit might be a good answer.

I’d really like to read more about different experiences and would be happy to hear and discuss about it.



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