The Best Scrum Product Owner Book Ever Written!! (Must Read for PO’s and Agile Coaches)

Full disclosure: I actually sometimes compete against Don, one of the authors, for Scrum Coaching and Training work, so while we are friendly, we are also competitors in the marketplace. People who know me know that I “call ’em like I see ’em.” In a way, giving a positive review for Don’s(and Ralph’s) book is actually against my own interest. But I don’t care, darnit! This work of art is too important to our industry. I hope you will take this review as high praise from a competitor, because that’s what it is.  I make no money off of this article or the link below.  My review is completely objective.


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The book is hands down the best Scrum Product Owner book ever written. Period. The End. Ok, not the end… I’m waaaayy more wordy than that. This is a must read for all PO’s and Agile Coaches. So many other people focus on “writing stories” and other menial parts of the Product Owner role, while totally glossing over the most important role of the PO, that of maximizing the value delivery of the Scrum Team’s product. The authors’ Vision, Value, Validation mantra (The 3 V’s) throughout the book is an absolute game changer, and what the PO role is all about. It’s about darn time someone wrote about that! How about how to “define a product” when trying to use Scrum? The authors hit this head on. They hit so many other important topics head on. My favorites: Products not Projects, Defining and Measuring Value using straightforward value metrics, molding yourself into the “Entrepreneur” PO, structuring your teams to avoid the *component team* nightmare, several *different* MVP patterns, Cynefin, Risk management in Scrum, Ready and Done, Quality management and why the PO should care, release strategies, Story Mapping, and a ton of anti-patterns and how to guard against them. They wrap it all up with your journey from a “Receiving product Owner” to how you can turn yourself into an “Initiating Product Owner.” As if this all wasn’t good enough (and I only named *some* of *my* favorite topics!), they tell numerous anecdotes, each one of them a true, in-the-trenches, in-the-field, experience, that teaches you a lesson so you won’t have to learn that the hard way. They have culminated all of their awesome experiences and wrapped them up in a tidy bow in this book. I am truly jealous of this work. It is that good! Buy one for yourself, and then buy one for your manager too, because he or she needs it. Trust me on this. You won’t regret doing that.

It is my opinion that any credible review should include criticism and other proof that the review writer is objective. So, here goes… I’m not sure Eric Ries would be thrilled with their use of the MVP term and how Scrum is essentially a framework for creating “a series” of one MVP after another, for the *same* product. Metaphorically I get where they are going and it totally makes sense, but the “telephone game” in our industry is rampant, so I wish they could have come up with a way to describe this using new or different terminology. Most of my other suggested improvements are very tiny things. For instance, they say that the “stakeholder” role is not an official role of Scrum. I disagree with that, in large part because they might be the most important role in Scrum! I feel like I know what they were trying to say. I think I would re-word that as “the stakeholder role is not one of the 3 main roles that are most discussed in Scrum, but they play a huge part in value delivery…”

And finally, to once again assuage anyone’s fears that my objectivity is limited here, I will say that Roman Pichler’s book on the PO role is good, and it was, in my opinion, the best PO book available prior to this one. Roman is a trainer with a competing Scrum organization to mine. His book was written a full 8 years ago, and the Scrum Guide, Scrum framework, and scaled Scrum Frameworks have undergone numerous significant updates and changes since then. I honestly hope that Roman writes a new edition of his book and I hope it gives this one a run for its money! That would be wonderful for everyone involved! (and I will write him a glowing review if he does!) So, if you want to buy two books on the PO role, buy this one first, then Roman’s book. As another way to show that I’m objective, I also recommend Ilan Goldstein’s “Scrum Shortcuts without Cutting Corners”. Ilan is also from a competing Scrum organization to mine.

One other last note. This book will definitely help you prepare the right mindset if you want to take the PSPO I certification exam assessment from Honestly, there are several much better reasons to read this book than to get certified. But it will help you, if certification is part of your learning plan. In my opinion, this book alone is insufficient to pass the exam, but it was not intended as an exam prep. This book is a great companion to your learning plan. If you want to study for that exam, do a google search for “PSPO study plan” or something. Having said all of that, read the book because you want to become, and help others become, a kick arse Product Owner, because that’s what this book appears to be intended for.

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