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  • Toby Sinclair

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

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

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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.DebateDialogueassumes 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 combative – participants attempt to prove the other side wrongis collaborative – participants work together toward common understandingI defend my own views against those of others I admit that others’ thinking can improve my ownentails listening to find flaws and make counter argumentsentails listening to understand and find meaning and agreement.I defend my assumptions as truthI 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?


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