3-15 2013 log reigndeer

We use proxies in many situations. My neighbors recently provided a humorous example of a proxy. They decided to build a diorama of log reindeer after they could not induce the local deer to hang out in their front yard and pose. Perhaps because I let the dog out to bark at the real deer. The log deer erected were a proxy for real deer and, in this case, not only will the proxy suffice but they might be better for neighborhood peace.

Naming a proxy for a product owner in an agile project will be far less satisfactory than a herd of log reindeer. A product owner acts as the Voice of the Customer channeling information about how the product will be used to the project team. This information is critical for the team to maximize the value of what they are building. Product owners also provide the team with priorities and decisions based on their knowledge of the business environment. The further the person acting as the product owner is from the financial responsibility (profit and loss) for the product or the day-to-day operations that use the product the lower the fidelity of the information he or she can provide. Poor information or slower decisions will yield lower value to the organization regardless of what is being built. While a proxy product owner might not be a log reindeer, the further they are from the business the more apt you will be to get termites rather than the answers your agile project team needs.

Arcane Snow Blowing

Change agents need to have knowledge of many arcane skills when practicing organizational change.  Sales is one of the most arcane.  Sales brings to mind used car salesmen in plaid sports coats. Fortunately the perception does not have to be accurate nor is the skill arcane.

Why are sales skills important?  Ask any professional salesman or woman and they will tell you that an immediate pain is an important motivator to making a sale, maybe the most important motivator. At least 99.9% of the people in the world want pain to go away when they have it which is why an aspirin is an easier sale if someone has a headache.  The art of persuasion, sales and requirements gathering is the ability to peel back the layers until you can expose the root cause so the pain can be solved not just masked. The ability to successfully navigate the “pain” conversation to get to the root cause and not irritate person feeling the pain is a skill not consistently found on IT project teams. Bottom-line: I highly recommend a course in salesmanship for all change agents and requirements analysts, make sure your process improvement program solves current problems and always carry a snow shovel and an aspirin.