Author Archives: Kiron Bondale

About Kiron Bondale

Measurable business value can be realized through the successful initiation, prioritization, planning & execution of strategic projects. Striking a pragmatic, value-based balance between people, process & technology is a key to achieving success with Project Portfolio Management initiatives. Effective change management is crucial when trying to improve PPM or PM capabilities. Having been involved with multiple capability improvement initiatives, what I've learned is that "it's easy in theory, difficult in practice"! Continuous improvement of hard & soft skills gained by assisting organizations in the achievement of their business goals through the execution of the right projects in the right way is my ongoing mission.

Can someone be a Product Owner and Agile Lead for a single team?

A question was posed on my Mastodon instance this morning about combining the roles of Product Owner and Agile Lead (e.g. Scrum Master). The requestor felt that this was a bad idea but wanted to get feedback on whether it was, in fact, possible to do so and under what conditions would it not cause problems.

To answer the question, we need to understand the responsibilities of each role.

The Product Owner has the responsibility of collaborating actively with stakeholders to help them prioritize all the potential needs and wants which might be addressed by the product or service. They are also expected to spend significant time working with the delivery team to ensure they have a clear understanding of these needs and wants and to provide ongoing feedback on product ideas and completed work items by the team.

The Agile Lead is responsible for supporting the team in becoming as effective and efficient as they can be. While the role might facilitate delivery events (e.g. daily coordination events) for the team, their greater value is in the positive changes they are able to catalyze outside of these events. While they are expected to have sufficient delivery expertise to advise the team when they need assistance, the team is expected to define their way of working.

Based on these two sets of responsibilities, there are two main concerns with having a single individual play both roles: knowledge and capacity.

An effective Product Owner is expected to have sufficient product domain knowledge and organizational awareness whereas an Agile Lead is expected to have sufficient breadth and depth of delivery experience. It is rare to find an individual who ticks all of these boxes.

Most of the Product Owners I’ve worked with are overwhelmed just in their roles with the responsibility of spending enough time engaging with stakeholders and understanding product domain changes along with supporting the team daily. Adding the Agile Lead responsibilities to this mix usually means something will slip which could result in valuable input into product feature prioritization being missed or the team being neglected.

So is there any circumstance where the roles would be combined?

When a new company is formed, unless the leader has sufficient confidence, funding and foresight to fill positions appropriately right away, it is common that the leader plays both roles for at least the first product or service launch. However, in most situations, as the company grows, the leader recognizes fairly quickly that they need to step out of the daily tactical work of delivery and will staff the two roles.

Are there other contexts where you’ve seen this work? If so, leave a comment below…

(If you liked this article, why not read my book Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice which contains 100 other lessons on project leadership? It’s available on and on as well as a number of other online book stores).

Categories: Agile, Project Management | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Why do we need flat head screwdrivers?

After taking a break from writing for a few weeks, I was planning to write about the importance of conversation in the work we do, but a late day Mastodon toot caught my attention today: “Gantt charts are lies“. Based on the hashtags accompanying the post, the author works in the software development domain using adaptive approaches.

While I can empathize with the frustration underlying the post, it resonated with me in the same manner as if someone had written “Flat head screwdrivers are useless“. While we might wish the folks who chose to use a flat-headed screw had used a Phillips or a Robertson instead when trying to unscrew one which has a messed up slot, depending on what you are trying to achieve, a flat head screwdriver might be just what you need. Apart from driving screws, I have found its value as a small pry bar is understated. One example has been to safely remove the sheet metal cover for my furnace filter which has extremely sharp edges.

When Henry Gantt had originally adapted the chart which is named for him, it had been used to document the activities and timelines for past operational work. Somewhere along the line, it started to be used as a tool for planning, tracking and communicating schedule information on in flight or future projects. This included adding details such as dependencies and baseline information.

The modern Gantt chart has benefited greatly from automation as prior to the introduction of rudimentary scheduling applications, they had to be redrawn any time changes occurred.

Like any tool, misusing a Gantt chart will cause problems and an experienced project manager should have the wisdom to avoid those.

Similar to a work breakdown structure, the level of detail in a Gantt chart should be based on the degree of confidence the team has in remaining activities as well as on the desired degree of monitoring of the work being done. While work whose delivery is highly predictive might benefit from the use of a detailed Gantt chart, one where a highly adaptive approach is required will necessitate the use of a chart at a very high level of detail or a completely different method of visualizing schedule information.

And like most other project management artifacts, if the frequency of updating the Gantt chart is much lower than the frequency of material changes to the schedule, the information presented can’t be trusted.

Does this mean we should stop using them?

In the author’s context, perhaps the risks of using a Gantt chart outweigh its benefits, but pragmatism is required to understand that they can still be useful in the right contexts and when used in the right manner.

(If you liked this article, why not read my book Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice which contains 100 other lessons on project leadership? It’s available on and on as well as a number of other online book stores).

Categories: Agile, Project Management | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Does your project need a PCO?

When I first read it, I found that one of the more interesting characters in Tom Clancy’s debut novel, The Hunt for Red October, was the political officer, Ivan Putin. His role is to ensure that the leadership and crew of the nuclear submarine were acting in alignment with the values and principles of the Soviet Union. He acts independent from the rest of the crew as his reporting relationship is to Moscow and not to the submarine’s leadership team. While the role is expected to help the crew navigate the complex set of rules and regulations, Ivan proves to be more of an impediment than an asset.

What does this have to do with project management, you ask? At the risk of offending some readers, it is about political correctness and cancel culture.

As I approach my mid-fifties, I recognize that there are behaviors, beliefs and phrases which were generally acceptable when I was growing up which are no longer so. And while I am comfortable receiving constructive feedback from others on how I could modernize my mindset, I also recognize that if I were working full- time in a project management role I might accidentally violate one of our new norms with potentially severe consequences to myself.

These day many folks no longer remember Hanlon’s Razor.

When leading projects, as the number of stakeholders increases the likelihood of causing unintentional offense will also increase. To prevent “cancellation” of project managers and their team members, perhaps we need a new PCO role to educate and help them avoid committing such errors. While that acronym normally stands for Project Control Officer (which is a support role similar to a Project Analyst or Project Coordinator) it might now stand for Political Correctness Officer.

Should our profession evolve (?) to warrant such a role, it would be advisable to remember the treatment which Ivan Putin received at the hands of Captain Marko Ramius.

(If you liked this article, why not read my book Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice which contains 100 other lessons on project leadership? It’s available on and on as well as a number of other online book stores).

Categories: Facilitating Organization Change, Project Management, Psychological Safety | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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