Product Focus Over Project Focus

Have you been in an environment where the focus is on projects instead of products?

Something that I have run into throughout my career is the focus on projects over products.  This can lead to a lot of disadvantages. In the book, Large Scale Scrum: More with LeSSby Bas Vodde and Craig Larman, they list four disadvantages to the focus on projects over products.

  1. Decision of long-term versus short-term trade-offs will be made based on the short-term

  2. Frequent fantastical budget processes

  3. Overhead of starting and stopping projects

  4. Temporary teams or even temporary employees

All of the above may lead to substantial amounts of waste in the organization including a poor quality product. I have personally fallen to the short term thinking as a product owner and an entrepreneur more than once. For example, I focus more on the need to get the next project approved and done as quickly as possible. This rush to get more work done and focus on the project, reduces the focus of longer term vision and strategy as it pertains to the product and customer. Also, for example, if you have multiple product owners working on the same application with different projects going on, it can cause a lack of alignment with many other potential side effects.

Some things I have tried doing to increase the focus on the product rather than the project include:

  • Facilitate a joint product owner planning session to build alignment on priorities for the product every sprint
  • Create a product vision, strategy, and road-map in collaboration with your customers, team members, and key stakeholders
  • Facilitate a joint retrospective across teams to discover, show, and act on problems
  • Have one overall product backlog to prioritize and pull from
  • Lead with a lean and agile mindset to continuously improve and drive change quickly in areas that are within your circle of influence

These things may help to show problems and provide more product focus.  Implementing a scaled framework such as LeSS will ideally build alignment and expose more problems from the bottom up in the organization. In addition, looking into lean budgeting such as in SAFe may improve the budgeting process.

What problems have you run into with project focus over product focus? What ideas have you tried to make it better? What were the results?

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