This is part of Scrum for Students – a series of posts on using Scrum project management for rocking your student life. If you want to learn more about why this is about, check out this post: Scrum for Students – A Brief Manifesto.
Ever seen this Tumblr post?
I love this post because it talks about how you are in control of your future. Not your parents, not your friends, not your significant other.
Or how about this:
This is Habit #2 from Stephen Covey’s classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This habit is probably the one I use the most – from leading group projects to writing this post!
Now, both of these relate to the Product Owner role in the Scrum project management framework and what I’d like to call The Product Owner Mindset.
Here is what Jeff Sutherland, author of Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, has to say about the Product Owner:
“This person is the one with the vision of what you are going to do, make or accomplish. They take into account risks, rewards, what is possible, what can be done and what they are passionate about.”
If you want to take charge of your life, you have to adopt the product owner mindset and have a vision and a goal. Otherwise…
But don’t worry!
By the end of this post, you’ll know what exactly the PO mindset is and just why it’s so crucial to being successful.
Finally, I’ll cover five steps you can take to start putting this mindset into practice.
The Product Owner Mindset (and How it Relates to Being Productive)
There are three roles in a Scrum team:
- The Scrum Master. They’re in charge of getting rid of obstacles that are bogging the team down.
- The Product Owner. The vision guy or gal who decides what the work will be, what’s on the backlog and what order it’s in.
- The Team. They’re in charge of doing the actual work needed to complete the project.
Today we’ll be focusing on the Product Owner. And before we get into the Why, here’s a few quick things about what the PO does.
The PO in a team needs to:
- Fill, organize and prioritize the backlog (list of all the things the team has to do).
- Balance what the team can build, with what makes the team or company money and with what the PO (and the team) is passionate about doing.
- Connect deeply with the customer and knows exactly what he/she wants the end product to look like.
To be a good PO, they have to:
- Know a lot about the domain the team is working in.
- Constantly remind the team of the vision and why they are doing what they do.
- Keep the team accountable to value – being able to show something for their work.
You may be thinking, I’m not gonna be a project manager…. Why do you need to know this?!
As students, most of us don’t have a team of people who will get to work if we say, “Start research for my essay. I want it to be about the Mongol Empire.” (Although most of the time I wish I did!)
But we have to understand every role, because we have fill all three!
And I would even argue that the most important role we must learn is that of the Product Owner’s.
Because while the team executes, and the Scrum Master lightens the load, it is the Product Owner’s job to make sure that the team is going in the right direction.
It doesn’t matter how hard the team works or how quickly they burn through the tasks…
If the Product Owner steers the team in the wrong direction, they’re screwed.
Effectiveness over efficiency, remember? 🙂
So aside from the fact that Scrum project management is used in a lot of companies right now and that dropping the lingo can probably help you land a job…
You have to know this because you are the Product Owner of your life.
Think about it:
- If you want to be successful in all areas of your life, there are certain things you must do, certain items that must be in your personal backlog that you need to prioritize and get done.
Things like: calling your Mom, reading your textbook and starting to apply for jobs. No one else is responsible for any of these but you.
- It is up to you to strike the balance in your life:
- Do you want to be more career-oriented?
- Do you want to focus more on student groups and extra-curriculars over your school work?
- Or, do you run your own business on the side and want to prioritize that over going out with friends?
Whatever it is, it is up to you to decide where to spend your time on (though it is possible to “have it all” – school, sleep and a social life ).
- And finally, to be able to do well on tests, you have to know your customer, a.k.a. Your professor.Sounds kinda odd when I put it that way but think about it: they are the ones who create tests and grade assignments, teach the material and help you out when you’re stuck on a problem.Whether we like it or not, we need to keep our professors happy or, at least, know them well enough to be able to predict what comes out on the midterm.
There are some of the things you have to think about to do well as the Product Owner of your life because, really, no one else wants to be.
(Unless you’re Asian and have tiger parents… But then that’s a different story.)
And of course, the skills needed to succeed as a PO are similar to what you need to succeed in life:
- You have to be self-aware. This is about knowing how you work, what makes you tick, what just kills of your motivation, etc.Gary Vaynerchuk (millionaire investor, speaker, NYT bestselling author) speaks a lot about how he thinks that the two determining factors for his success are his self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
- You have to keep reminding yourself why you do what you do. And if you can’t answer the Why to your What… Then you either you figure it out or stop doing it.
- You keep yourself accountable to value. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that it was a productive day because you got a few emails out.
- Value is reading a chapter of your textbook.
- Value is writing 500 words for your history essay.
- Value is getting the formulas for your finance midterm all on one page.
- Value is about having something to show for your time and effort at the end of the day.
Listen, be honest about how much value your produced today, because if you can’t be honest with yourself, how can you expect other people to be honest with you?
3 Rocking Reasons Why It’s Awesome to Be Your Own Product Owner (a.k.a. Boss)
Now that you know what it takes to be a PO, let’s look at the some reasons why it’s great to have that power.
1. You’re the captain of the ship.
We’ve talked about how being a Product Owner means that you get to decide on the “what”.
This means that you decide…
- What you want to do each week,
- What you want do when you graduate, and
- Who you want to become in 10 years’ time.
This is scary and exciting because you can either be Christopher Columbus and discover America…
Or the captain of the Titanic who sinks the ship and takes everyone with him.
2. You decide what’s most important to you and when you do it.
If you seriously apply the Product Owner Mindset and take ownership of your schoolwork (and your life), you won’t have to worry about meeting deadlines and cramming for exams.
When you’re in Product Owner mode, you’re thinking big picture:
- Where am I at this particular course?
- How is my group doing on that project?
- Am I falling behind on readings?
- Have I started working on that side hustle that will let me graduate with no debt?
- How am I on the job hunt?
By the end of a planning session as a PO, you will have a clear, mental map of where you are at every project in your life.
3. You can be confident that you are constantly progressing towards most or all of your goals every day.
Let’s be honest.
Adopting the Product Owner Mindset is hard.
It’s very overwhelming, especially in the beginning, because if you’re like me, you’ll realize that you want to do everything:
- You want to be in a thriving relationship with someone…
- While lining up a job before you graduate. And…
- It’d also be cool if you could work part-time and save up for that spring break trip in Europe. Then…
- You want to aim for a straight A semester, too.
- And, of course, don’t forget to save up to pay off your student debt.
And you want to do works towards them all at the same time.
So basically, you have a lot to do in a short time frame (4-8 months)
Hwooh! Tall orders.
The good news is…
It is possible to work on all of them at once.
Sure, you’ll go slower than if you focused one thing at a time… But it can be done.
The bad news is: Juggling all of those is a surefire a recipe for disaster if you’re not organized.
Having the PO mindset helps you set priorities and learn about what are the most important things to you.
Knowing that each task you do and each productive day is a direct step towards achieving your goals and your dreams is a powerful, powerful motivator.
A 5-Step Plan to Implement the Product Owner Mindset
Now I’m not just going to leave you with a great mindset but no steps to take! That’s not me.
Knowledge heard but not applied is not learned.
So, here are 5 incremental steps you can take to adopt The Product Owner Mindset:
1. Spend time dreaming and thinking about who you want to be and what you want your life to look like 5- to 10-years down the road.
2. Lay out everything you are working on right now. For each one, ask yourself: is this taking me to where I want to go?
3. Reduce your personal “projects” so you can focus on the 2-3 that really matter to you. Ideally, you should only have 1 personal project outside of school.
4. Add in any projects that you have to start working on to make small, incremental progress on your goals.
5. Schedule a weekly check-in, either at the end or in the beginning of your week, to review your progress on your goals and dreams.
Again, the best thing about being the PO is that you get to decide who you want to be after you graduate and even 5-, 10- years down the road.
Don’t wait. Scrum is all about speed and taking action.
Start taking small, incremental steps towards your goals, today.
If you like this post and want to learn more about prioritizing work and achieving the dreams and goals you have then subscribe to the blog in the box below! Looking forward to journeying with you. 🙂
Credits to Everything’s Coming Up Rosie, HaikuDeck and Gary V for the photos!
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