Redesigning the Product Owner Class – Trusting the Learners

September 8, 20123 min

For a while my Certified Product Owner (CPO) class was bugging me.  It was OK, but it something about it was off.  People were writing good evaluations, but the class was not on the same level of quality as my Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) class.  Now part of this reason is that my CPO course is not run as often as my CSM course – I produce about 8 CSM courses for every CPO course – so I do not have as many opportunities to inspect-anad-adapt the course.  I felt like I was missing something really important, but I could not put my finger on it.

Before I became a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST), I had the opportunity to attend a CPO course by a well-known trainer and I was not impressed by the class at all.  From my perspective, the course felt too much like a review of the CSM class and the content that was there for the Product Owner, felt superficial.  When I became a CST, I wanted to make sure that what I taught was going to be new and interesting for Product Owners.  I wanted to deliver a full two-days of Product Owner specific content that enabled Product Owners to do their job well.

During my mentorship of becoming a CST, I had chance to work with Ronica Roth, observed her CPO class.  I was very lucky to get the opportunity to work with Ronica since she is one of the few CST that come from a product development background rather than a technical background and modeled my own CPO course on her course.  However, something was still off in the class.  IMO, what Ronica taught was good and useful, but did not feel fresh and new.  It was focused on ideas and concepts pretty well-accepted in the Scrum community – user stories, vision statements, release planning, etc.

In order to make the class more current and fresh, I incorporated a number of Luke Hohmann’s Innovation Games.  This helped, but again something was not working.  Now the energy and the engagement during the course were diminished.  I truly believe in the power of Innovation Games, but the way I was using them in my class felt forced.  Additionally, I felt really challenged to come up with realistic examples the participants could comprehend in a short period of time and yet be rich enough to create useful interactions to show the power of the various tools I was introducing in the class.

Then I understood what the problem was – I did not trust the participants to come up with their own examples.  What I wanted to do was guide them step-by-step through my (contrived) examples, but that is simply not possible.  The world of product development is so varied and dynamic,  that what ever examples I could come up would be infinitely less interesting than what product people think about each-and-every day.  They are experts in this field and once I realized (and trusted) that the learners could come up with compelling and interesting examples on their own, it was real no-brainer on how to restructure the class.