Consider Dual-Track Agile

More often than not Product Managers (or Product Owners as they are typically referred to nowadays) spend almost all of their time converting highest-paid person’s opinion into user stories, and on day-to-day team activities. While instead they should be looking more into the future. Dual-track to the rescue!

One of the advantages of using dual-track agile is streamlining the work of the product manager and product designer. The benefits are tri-fold:

  1. Business – ideas are validated during the discovery at a much lower price point. Engineering is focused on things that objectively matter.
  2. Product – PMs and designers have time to iterate on the idea, validate prototypes, and discuss feasibility risks before getting bogged down with questions and requests from engineering.
  3. Engineering – Having specs, cases, and even prototypes makes refinements much easier, and engineers are more confident in what they are supposed to build. Tech Leads/Architects have plenty of time during the discovery to highlight (and validate through spikes/prototypes) any implementation risk they see.

Marty Cagan wrote about it back in 2012, so this is old-news! However, I don’t see it often implemented.

Implementation is easy on paper. Delivery can remain as-is (scrum, kanban, whatever..). Key points are to:

  1. Acknowledge that product managers are spending most of their time in discovery (and help them in that)
  2. Adjust DoR to fit the new expectations of what “ready” means. This will make product managers accountable for the quality of their output

The complex part is the mindset shift that’s required in order to make it more effective:

  • user-centricity (for which you need to actually talk to someone from outside of your company)
  • being data-informed (for which you need to actually collect some data)
  • being outcome driven (party when you achieve an outcome, not when you release something)

If you don’t have any data, or talk to the users only if you really really have to, product managers will have a lot of free time, and you won’t leverage any benefits.

You can read more about how dual-track works on the internet. I might write later about more concrete examples.