Agile Software Development

You Liking the Product Doesn’t Mean the User Will

You might be a product owner who fires on all cylinders, but as the Clever PM warns at his blog, you need to remember not to fall in love with your own ideas. There exists a big wide ecosystem beyond yourself, and that ecosystem must be considered if the product you deliver is to be the one that makes people happy. This is a situation where you are not #1.

Who’s the User?

Chiefly, the product owner is not the user, ever. Even if the product owner was once a user, shifting into a product owner role demands a change in priorities that necessarily pulls the product owner somewhat out of alignment with user concerns. This is why it is so critically important to test products with real users while the work is in progress. The Clever PM goes on to say this:

I’ve worked with a few Product Managers who took themselves and their role way too seriously, and refused to actually listen to what people were trying to tell them, missing the nonverbal cues that indicated the questions they needed to ask to dig deeper, and simply assumed that they were right and there were no other viable options — because they’re the Product Manager.

A title might grant authority, but it does not grant wisdom. Yet on the flip side, the Clever PM turns a 180 and proceeds to say that a greater mistake might be made when product owners believe they are not the user. He means this in the sense that, when dealing with users, a product owner can mince assumptions and challenge logic that arises when addressing user needs. If the product owner cannot scrutinize him or herself for assumptions that might prove false, then that can be pretty damaging to the project.

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