What is a Product? Oh no! Not another Product definition

Image result for product owner

Product Backlog, Product Owner, Product Management, Minimum Viable Product. These are just a few examples of how product is referenced across agile literature.

Despite it’s frequency, one of the most common questions I’m asked: What is a Product?

This is a critical question, especially for organisations who look to become product centric, organising their teams and delivery around their core products. These organisations may establish Product Owners so it’s sensible to think, what product will these people own.

There are many definitions such as this and this. In fact, I’ve used both definitions and I even have my own definition.

However, I’ve learned that these definitions don’t really help.

It may help individuals but organisations need shared understanding to become a product centric organisation.

Reframing the question: How do we define product?

Shared understanding does not come through a definition you found on the internet, writing it down on confluence or debating your perspective.

The question requires dialogue, not debate.

In dialogue participants open themselves up to the possibility there may be a different perspective they have not considered. They listen actively and question to help the group to learn collectively. The result is a shared mental model co-created by the group.

Debate Dialogue
assumes there is a right answer – and I have it. assumes that many people have pieces of the answer and that together, they can craft a solution.
is combative – participants attempt to prove the other side wrong is collaborative – participants work together toward common understanding
I defend my own views against those of others  I admit that others’ thinking can improve my own
entails listening to find flaws and make counter arguments entails listening to understand and find meaning and agreement.
I defend my assumptions as truth I reveal my assumptions for reevaluation

From The Magic of Dialogue by Daniel Yankelovich

For leaders attempting to become an agile, product centric organisation, the first step is dialogue.

Bring your key leaders together, with a skilled facilitator, to create your shared answer: What is a Product?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s