Posts Tagged With: Project performance

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

Applying project management to an election run (part three)

The final (pre-election) article in my series covering my election run for city councilor of Ward 4 in Welland, Ontario shares some of the key risks I’ve identified with this project and how I’m responding to them.

In general, most projects will have two broad categories of risks – those which relate to the delivery of the project itself and those which relate to the outcomes from the project. Delivery risks will affect the ability of the team to complete the project within normal constraints such as scope, schedule, cost, quality and team member availability. Outcome risks will impact the realization of expected benefits.

For each category, I will provide the key risks I’ve identified, their qualitative impact and likelihood of realization and the risk responses I’ve implemented or plan to implement.

Delivery Risks

Increased costs due to inflation or increased demand might cause the project to exceed its approved budget. The impact of the risk is high and the probability is moderate given the current economic conditions. I am attempting to mitigate this risk by identifying multiple suppliers for the products and services I’ll be procuring to ensure I’m getting good prices and will reduce its impact (if the risk is realized) by cutting back on what I will be purchasing.

Another risk related to products and services is that supply chain delays might increase the likelihood of not receiving procured items on time before the election date. The impact of this risk is high but the probability is low as the items being procured are readily available. The same response as in the previous risk will address this risk.

Given the large number of bylaws and regulations related to the election, there is a chance that I or one of the volunteers supporting my campaign might break one of the rules resulting in fines, disqualification from the election or other penalties. The likelihood of occurrence is moderate and the impact would be high. My mitigation risk response has been to thoroughly study all the official election documentation and to seek clarification from election officials whenever I run into a scenario which is not explicitly permitted or prohibited.

Ward 4 has over 6500 residents (as per the previous 2018 election data). I’m planning to go door-to-door introducing myself to homeowners on a number of the main streets within the ward in early September once the start date for posting lawn signs has passed. I’m not planning to visit any given house more than once. As such, there is a risk that if a large number of residents are not home when I visit, the effectiveness of this activity will be reduced. The impact is high but the probability is low given both the demographics of the city and kids will be back to school which means fewer families would be out of town on vacation. I will try to reduce the likelihood of occurrence by concentrating my visits in the early evening and on weekends.

Outcome Risks

Given that under 35% of the eligible voters participated in the last municipal election, there is a high probability, high impact risk that even if I am successful in creating sufficient awareness about myself, sufficiently few residents will turn out to vote which could favor the incumbents more than a newcomer. To mitigate the likelihood of this risk being realized, a key component of my campaign is to raise awareness about the upcoming election and to encourage residents to vote.

Finally, there is the risk that in spite of my campaign, I might get insufficient votes to be one of the two winners in my ward. The impact would, of course, be high and the likelihood of realization is moderate. My entire campaign is a response to address this risk so hopefully it will be successful!

(If you liked this article, why not pick up 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: Project Management | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

All constraints are important but some are more important than others

One of the distinguishing characteristics of project work is that we are usually expected to deliver value in uncertain conditions while facing multiple constraints. While it is important for a team to understand the external constraints they have and to define realistic plans based on those, it is also advisable that they have an idea of the relative priority of these constraints before making delivery commitments.

A typical sponsor or customer might tell you that all constraints are equally important to them, there is always one or at most two which will trump the others. If the team doesn’t take the effort to dig deep with stakeholders to understand the relative priority of constraints, they will be missing a valuable input for their analysis when an issue crops up which makes it impossible to achieve all of a project’s objectives.

For example, if we have an issue which will affect cost, schedule and quality, without understanding which of these three is more important than the others, we may come up with a recommendation which won’t result in a successful project.

And rarely do we find that all of our stakeholders will align on this relative ranking, especially with discretionary projects. Finance departments are likely to prioritize revenue and cost whereas business or product owners might emphasize timely delivery, scope or customer satisfaction. Achieving alignment between the key stakeholders might be difficult in the early stages of a project, but it is better than having those conversations when things have gone wrong and there is time sensitivity on making a good decision on how to proceed.

Even though there are many possible constraints for most projects, I wanted to get some feedback from practitioners on which of the most common ones were the highest priority on their most recent projects.

While the project management iron triangle might represent the best known set of constraints, for the majority of the projects I’ve been involved with, stakeholder satisfaction was the primary constraint.

I ran a one week poll in PMI’s Project, Program and Portfolio Management discussion group on LinkedIn and within the community. I received a total of 128 responses with 30% support for stakeholder satisfaction, 28% for time, 26% for scope or quality and only 16% for cost. A few respondents provided comments explaining their voting choice, but no additional constraints were provided as a primary choice by these practitioners.

Although stakeholder satisfaction doesn’t surprise me given my past experience, I would have expected cost to trump time or scope. This is what I’ve witnessed on many public sector projects where budgets are fixed, but there might be willingness to delay a milestone or reduce scope if that means staying within budget.

Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.” – G.I. Joe

(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: Governance, Project Management | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: