Fixing the Broken Feedback Loop

Quoting the great and inspiring philosopher Steven Seagal;

“Assumption is the mother of all f*ck ups!”

This is something I see Product Owners struggling with on a daily basis. They are continuously trying to focus on maximizing the value delivered by the development team. And during the sprint review this is demonstrated to stakeholders, who most of the time are happy to applaud the efforts of the Scrum Team. But unfortunately the feedback loop ends after the Sprint Review. Which basically leaves it broken. How to fix it?

I do understand those Product Owners very well. They often operate in an organisation which still is in a transition from having to wait 9-16 months for their feature to be delivered to being served in two weeks or less. So the first struggle Product Owners are facing is to manage all those requests they have received in the past couple of months. Delivering new stuff to satisfy stakeholders is their primary objective. However, this approach may work fine but this has nothing to with agility.

True agility is about getting feedback. Not only the applause you receive from your stakeholders, how in their turn are under the assumption this is exactly what the end user needs. The next step for a product owner is to think about (and implement) how they will verify the effect of the changes or improvement they delivered. Most organisations I come across simply do not measure the effect of the changes they make, even the smaller changes in the user interface. This may impact user behaviour tremendously.

Imagine you are at home and suddenly there is a power outage. You quickly light some candles and walk around the house with a flashlight. When you enter the bathroom, you will probably still flip the light switch. You pause for a moment, no light!?! Yes, off course. Right, the power outage! You feel a little stupid that you will do this over and over again as long as the outage will remain. It’s a habit, and this change in context (no power) confronts us with our habits.

The same will go for end users who have formed habits in using your software. Any change you make will impact their behaviour, but will it impact the way you are intending to? The only way you know for sure it to verify it. By measuring, observing or any way appropriate. Fixing the feedback loop. Not only focus on delivering as much output, but measuring the expected outcome as well. That is what real product ownership is about.

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