Product Ownership Blog Series, Part 1: Value Stream Mapping and Collaborative Games
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Product Owner is one of the three roles defined by the Scrum Guide. A Product Owner is primarily responsible for managing the product backlog, though they may delegate that task to the Development Team. “At the most basic level, a product owner is the leader responsible for maximizing the value of the products created by a scrum development team,” stated LucidChart.1 Product Owners use various techniques and tools to fulfill their role on an Agile team. Just two include value stream mapping and collaborative games.
The Importance of Value Stream Mapping
Value stream mapping is a technique that can help Product Owners improve processes. A value stream map represents the stream of activities required to deliver a product or service to an internal or external customer. It is a blueprint for implementing improvement. Value stream mapping helps to promote shared understanding of process waste and bottlenecks.
- Some product owners choose to create two value stream maps (one for current state and one for future state). A future-state value stream map isn’t always necessary, but a current-state value stream map is.
- When creating value stream maps, start by using sticky notes. They can easily be moved around on paper. Later, move the map online.
- Understand that creating a value stream map takes time. It’s not something that happens in a matter of days.
To learn more about value stream mapping, check out Value Stream Mapping: How to Visualize Work and Align Leadership for Organizational Transformation by Karen Martin and Mike Osterling.
Collaborative Games Drive Process Improvement for Product Owners and Their Teams
Another tool Product Owners can use to promote process improvement is collaborative games. As its name implies, a collaborative game improves collaboration among team members by building joint understanding of a problem or a solution. In addition to increasing understanding, collaborative games prompt creative thinking and bring hidden assumptions to light.
Collaborative games should be used when a Product Owner needs to promote buy-in, which is often. Games should also be implemented when Product Owners sense that things are starting to feel stale or boring.
As effective as collaborative games are at helping Agile teams improve processes, they are not for everyone. For example, they aren’t a good fit for some personalities and can be seen as unproductive. Highlighting the outcomes your team had from a collaborative game immediately after playing can help individuals see that games can indeed be productive.
There are dozens of collaborative games for Product Owners to implement to improve processes. Luke Hohmann gives many game examples in his book Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play.
Value Stream Mapping and Collaborative Games are Helpful to Product Owners of All Backgrounds
A variety of professionals can be a Product Owner on an Agile team. “The product owner is commonly a lead user of the system or someone from marketing, product management or anyone with a solid understanding of users, the market place, the competition and of future trends for the domain or type of system being developed,” stated Mountain Goat Software.2 Often, business analysts3 find themselves in the role of Product Owner. But no matter what industry or department a Product Owner is from, they can be more effective in their role by using value stream mapping and collaborative games within their teams.
About The Author:
Emily Midgley is the President of the Cleveland Chapter of IIBA and has 13 years of business analysis experience in the insurance industry. She led business analysis for programs to implement leading-edge technology like big data and mobile apps. As an Agile coach, Emily brings BA practices to product managers and product owners throughout the enterprise to increase focus on customer value.