Superusers Are Your Startup’s Secret Key to High Growth
What if you brought all that knowledge and motivation in-house?
Twice in the past three months, I’ve recommended bringing on a product owner at two of the high-tech, high-growth startups I work with.
In both cases, the startup’s leadership wasn’t exactly sure what I meant. Don’t get me wrong, these are startups with multimillion-dollar run rates, led by people with decades of experience. So sure, they knew what a product owner was, kind of, they just weren’t crystal clear on what the product owner would do and what benefits they would bring to, you know, the product.
This was fine — better than fine, actually, because I’m using the lowercase “product owner” instead of the uppercase Scrum/Agile-oriented “Product Owner.”
It was also a plus because they didn’t know enough to do it wrong. So I clarified that what they needed was a superuser. And then it all made sense.
The Term ‘Product Owner’ Immediately Takes the Customer Out of the Equation
While I’m a fan of parts of Scrum and some of the benefits of Agile, I put them in the same unholy mess of a bucket with all the PMI/PMP project management tools and methods that are shockingly still out there.
My thinking has always been this: If everyone on your team isn’t a project manager (as in: actually managing their own projects), with their own understanding of requirements and their own motivation for hitting deadlines, your deliverables will always be late and wrong, regardless of how many Gantt charts, status meetings and project kickoffs you throw at them.
The same holds true for Scrum/Agile product management. It’s the same bloat, only for more creative people. Installing that kind of product owner is like squeezing the pipe between customer and developer, creating an unnecessary bottleneck while also removing all real product ownership from the people actually building the product.
When the product owner is a proxy for the “voice of the customer,” your product team is no longer listening to the customer, your product team is listening to a member of your own product team.