Leveraging the Product Goal to engage with stakeholders

This post will explain how the Product Owner can leverage the Product Goal to improve the engagement with stakeholders during product development, because it provides context on why the Scrum Team is doing the work.

The Product Owner is responsible for communicating the Product Vision and maximizing the value of the product. With the introduction of Product Goal to the new Scrum Guide, the Product Owner will be more supported to engage with Stakeholder because it has a strategic view and measurable outcomes.

How to leverage the Product Goal to engage with Stakeholders?

The PO needs to build the right leadership style that positively influences the stakeholders and engages (not manages) with them respectfully to optimize the chances of influencing their choices.

First things first: Who are the Stakeholders? I find this description from Scrum Glossary very helpful:

“Stakeholder: a person external to the Scrum Team with a specific interest in and knowledge of a product required for incremental discovery. Represented by the Product Owner and actively engaged with the Scrum Team at Sprint Review.”

It means that Stakeholders can be an internal customer or external customer. https://www.scrum.org/resources/blog/scrum-who-are-key-stakeholders-should-be-attending-every-sprint-review

Involving Stakeholders to build consensus using your Product Goal

The PO needs to craft the Product Goal in close collaboration with the Developers and Stakeholders because they will help to identify the questions and hypotheses that the Scrum Team wants to experiment with to deliver value. This collaboration will build a shared understanding (Transparency) between the parts involved in the product.

The Product Goal becomes a powerful tool to manage expectations because it is a measurable step towards a Product Vision and helps the Scrum team to focus on the work over a long-term period. The Product Goal must be only one, and the Sprint goal needs to contribute to it. The Scrum team must fulfill this goal or abandon it before committing to the next one to maintain the focus. With clear goals and measures, the PO will keep the stakeholders up to date with the long-term plan for the product. Building consensus by doing regular consultation is essential to ensure that the agreed delivery solution.

Developing relationships result in increased trust, and people work together more quickly and effectively. The PO should invest effort in identifying and building stakeholder relationships to improve confidence, speed problem solving, and decision-making across the product development.

As the market changes, the product develops incrementally, and technologies evolve. The Product Owner can’t follow the plan blindly without review and adapt it to reflect the market and customer feedback changes. I notice a common mistake in my experience is the PO waiting until the Sprint Review to seek feedback, approval, or alignment. Today I encourage POs to consult, inspect and align the Product Goal with Stakeholders early and often by interviewing Stakeholders, asking to test ideas, having one-on-one catch-ups or more formal meetings with a committee of stakeholders, always using product vision and goal as a reference for these conversations.

Getting buy-in and support from Stakeholders

Now that you are involved with the Stakeholders and created the Goal for your product, it is time to get support from those who will help you deliver a successful Product.

Product management requires tons of activities and people involved, so the PO needs to identify who the stakeholders are to include the right people in the Product Goal crafting process and also set the expectations to build coalitions and alliances continuously throughout the product development.

As the Scrum Team starts delivering sprint after sprint, it increases the strength of its reputation. The more the Scrum Team enhances its reputation, the easier the PO will find to influence stakeholders. After each interaction with your stakeholders, you should try to understand your communication’s impact and outcome, step back, and look at the big picture to review your Product Goal.

The Product Goal will help you leverage the stakeholders’ ideas and insights and influence their attitudes because it will communicate the intent, not the solution. The focus is on the problem that the product will solve or gap opportunity instead of work.

All the work necessary to your product is in the Product Backlog with a Product goal as a commitment. The Product Goal guides the refinement activity and serves as an input for Sprint Planning and the Sprint Goal crafting linking the ideas and hypotheses to achieve the Product Vision.

Perhaps we may have multiple goals for a product. Still, the PO must choose only one to be part of the Product Backlog. The other goals become part of the Product Strategy that shows a journey to the future state of the product but keeping in mind that the future is uncertain due to market changes and customer feedback.

The Product Goal serves as a guide to connect the Product vision, strategy, and value to Sprint Goal and helps the Scrum Team to make decisions throughout the Product development using data and empirical evidence that the stakeholders or Scrum Team might collect. That evidence will help the PO convince the stakeholders in the decision-making process, and the Evidence-Based Management framework may help the Scrum Team to identify measures and data.

Conclusion

In this post, I shared how the Product Goal may help the Product Owner to engage with stakeholders by creating a tangible view of the Product development journey. Remember that product management is a huge area with many activities, and the PO can delegate these activities but still accountable for the outcomes.

Engaging with stakeholders is a crucial activity for a successful product.

Is there some exciting idea missing that you have observed? Please share with us in the comments.

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