Is agile product management training difficult? As we’ve said in several training pieces recently, it’s usually the things you focus on, and the obstacles you have to deprogram trainees from which are the biggest concerns with specific training like this.
So, with that in mind, when it comes to agile product management training, what are the biggest things to focus on, and the biggest hurdles to overcome? This is actually one of the easier ones to deal with, because there are seldom any preconceptions about agile methodologies to deprogram. However, there are some normal human tendencies which agile calls for being cast off, which you do have to address. In fact, that in and of itself is one of the bigger parts of agile as a whole.
So, let’s take a look at some of these.
One of the bigger things about agile that you have to get their minds wrapped around is the sense of independence and interconnectivity which agile holds as a primary directive. Where traditional management approaches have a fixed hierarchical setup of who talks to who and who mandates what, with agile, this isn’t the case.
It’s not that dissimilar from the cooperative models used in other fields, where everyone is involved with everyone, exchanging ideas and communicating freely, as well as addressing problems they see when they see them, without going through a lot of bureaucracy to get it done.
Along with this sense of initiative and independence (without fear of approaching it), you also have to instill in them the concept that they must cast aside the long term step planning that product management in a non agile situation calls for. The thing with agile is getting the immediate job done within standards, not polishing it and aiming for a long term plan beyond a very base framework.
Finally, a sense of leadership and what goes into that is important for agile, because of the directive mentioned above. When everyone has to take the initiative to address issues the moment they are spotted, that means everyone has to play the role of the leader.
Finally, there’s the mentality of functionality versus perfection, which in product management means getting the product out, getting it available, and keeping storefronts workable if not shiny. This might seem like a somewhat antithetical way to think, but trimming the fluff this way has proven useful. You simply have to focus on getting them used to short term goals and responses to maintain functionality, rather than the old fashioned focus on big picture over everything else.
Using social situations and storytelling exercises to address problem spotting, reaction and daily functionality acquisition skills are going to be your biggest weapons.
With agile product management training, on top of your standard task of teaching the principles of product management, you have to drill these somewhat unusual ways of thinking into people. If you handle the agile aspect before the product management aspect, it’s going to make your life easier, as well as that of the people whom you are training. In the reverse order, without the agile aspects in place first, their intrinsic grasp of product management will contradict the principles of agile and make the whole thing more difficult.