When you are preparing to hire a Product Owner you are looking to evaluate 4 key characteristics:

  • Strategic thinking — the ability to integrate a lot of information and from that generate a path to value.
  • Strong communications skills — the ability to motivate the team and the management.
  • Remarkable execution — the ability to thrive in a fast moving environment, to take decisions with limited information, to be always available and to get things done.
  • Personal integrity — in such a key role you need someone who is honest with themselves and others.

Below are the thematic areas to…


A company that is growing is a company that is learning. The intrinsic value of an organization is based on the accumulated knowledge carried by its people and its culture. Behaviors that increase this knowledge increase organizational muscle which in turn increases customer value delivery faster than competitors.

Most people want to be in a learning culture, but can benefit from some help with the how. Culture is a set of beliefs and behaviors that can be expressed in terms of Principles. …


This is based on Loonshots by Safi Bahcall. All credit for the ideas to the author.

Loonshots are crazy ideas that the large majority of us think are unhinged, along with their creators. Nonetheless many of the greatest inventions came from these. This book provides us with a key idea to think about this: phase transitions.

Let’s start with the basics of what a phase transition is. The archetypal example is solid to liquid. The same set of molecules organize themselves very differently based on a key variable: temperature. Underneath this phenomenon is the balance between two opposing forces. In…


I just enjoyed Uncommon Sense, Common Nonsense by Jules Goddard and Tony Eccles. Below are some ideas I took from it. All credit for the inspiration goes to the authors, all critique of the rendering to me.

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way — Leo Tolstoy.

Business is the reverse of this. All failing companies are alike; each successful company is unique in its own way. Success is rare, and it doesn’t derive from following a rule book, it is a singularity.

Success in business, as in all creative endeavors, comes from…


Giving a good review is hard

Giving a good review is hard. You want to provide a fair evaluation of your team member grounded in results and objective assessments, but how do you do that for a complex job such as Product Owner? Much of what they do is achieved through influence rather than direct contribution, and even the business performance of the team is hard to establish (see my related post on evaluating the strength of an engineering team).

An approach I have found effective is grounded in two parts:

  • An assessment of results using the Value, Flow, Quality (VFQ) framework,
  • An assessment of key…


I’m grateful to Emergn for educating me on the Value Flow Quality framework. I’ve found it incredibly useful as a means to structure conversations with teams and individuals about performance. I’ve just made one modification, which is to add the fourth quality Health. As you’ll see from their website, there is a wealth of material on this, but here I will focus on it as a way to review agile development teams and in a separate post you’ll see the same framework used for Product Owners.

Evaluating a technical team is fundamentally challenging. Lines of code? Number of tickets? Increase…


The most important part of the Product Owner’s job is setting the backlog. Sometimes the combination of strategy, customer insight and technology possibility leads to a clear path, but equally often the challenge is figuring out what to do when everything is a priority. The engineering team wants to pay down technical debt, the salesperson wants a specific feature for a top client, the marketing team wants more self-service control and you want to pursue a customer led feature development.

The danger in these multi-stakeholder situations is that the Product Owner can fall prey to some variant of HIPPO (Highest…


In an ideal organization, we have a network of autonomous teams working on autonomous goals in a decoupled manner that magically aggregate up to enterprise goals.

I have not met such an organization. All organizations I’ve been in are constantly trying to overcome problems related to tight coupling and dependencies. I couldn’t achieve my goal because the other guys never delivered on what they promised, and they in turn were dependent on three others. Companies regularly restructure with the intent of reducing these dependencies and increasing velocity but as often as not the dependency just pops up somewhere else. …

Patrick McLean

Product & Technology Leader

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