Emotions DO Matter!

Don’t you DARE tell me my emotions don’t matter

OK, I won’t.  What if I tell you that your emotions matter but only as long as we talk about them out in the open, honestly and transparently?

I’ve had some very interesting conversations with Product Owners over the years, and I’ve been guilty of flat out telling them to stop equating their emotions into prioritization–telling them that their frequent refrain “But I really feel this is going to be important” has no value.  Instead I’ve gotten all up on my high horse and told them that they need to focus only on business value or blurting my obligatory question: “What problem are you truly solving?”

And then I would walk away feeling like I was dispensing tough love and being Mr Pragmatic.  Hey, Check me out.

I took this stance the other day on two product owners at the same time no less, and the look that I saw on their faces gave me pause. Sure, I was telling the truth, but … was I being a good coach or was I being just a d-bag?

After some consideration, I realized that, maybe I was just being a jerk or at the very least, maybe I was wrong.

I rolled up my sleeves and looked at ways that I have helped Product Owners be better about putting all of their prioritization factors out on the table, and it struck me that, on top of things like cost reduction, customer satisfaction, increase in sales, emotional value could be weighted into the equation.

I mean, I’ve used this very discussion with my wife on home improvement projects, and it really worked.  Why not with features and enhancements in software?

Now, I’m going to reveal a small Scrum Master Secret here, and I hope I don’t get ostracized because of it, but you know those calculators we use?  You know, the ones that take all of the factors to determine value and then divide by the estimated work in story points?  Those are actually less about the actual quotient that we come up with and more about getting the product owner to stop and objectively view something they want.

It’s about starting the conversation.

Well, why couldn’t the same be true for emotions?  Have POs literally rank the level of emotion involved with each item.  In doing so the conversation is now opened to determining the factors  raising that emotion. Why does one feature carry more emotion than another?

I think what we’ll find is that by dissecting these emotions, we’ll uncover quantifiable factors  i.e. “Because client X who has a $1.2M account with us wants it.”  In some cases, it may turn out that gut feelings may be rooted in something more quantifiable.  On the other hand, that conversation could also lead to that great “ah-ha” moment when they realize that “Because I want it”  doesn’t necessarily help the customer.  It’s real, but it might not provide any value to the product.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s a good and healthy realization to come to.

In any case, getting that discussion out in the light of day–rather than encouraging Product Owners to internalize it is much better for them, for the team, and for the customer.

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