Settle the question of who owns prioritization

In many organizations it’s unclear who ultimately owns prioritization. Is it the CEO? CFO? Architect? Often it’s unclear and as a result the teams lose incredible amounts of productivity as their redirected from one priority to the next.  

The Product Owner and Product Manager own prioritization

In an agile framework the Product Owner owns the ultimate prioritization for the team backlog at the story level, and the Product Manager owns the prioritization for teams of teams usually at the Epic and Feature level. It is essential that one and only one personal is ultimately responsible for communicating priority for a particular workitem. When organizations first start executing agile this is often tested. An organization’s previous paradigm might have included conflicting priorities coming from executive leadership, product management, architecture or even individual managers. This creates significant friction for teams as they are constantly being redirected and unsure of what they should actually do. If teams distrust the validity of their priority they will certainly lose productivity and often take a “wait and see” approach stalling work until further direction is understood. 


Address this key disfunction

When an organization makes a decision to start executing in an agile fashion that involves adopting new practices as well as moving away from previous ones. By definition there is now a role called “Product Owner” whose primary responsibility is to collect requests from stakeholders and prioritize those requests. It’s perfectly normal for architects, team leads and senior leaders to have opinions about what work needs to be done, they may be in a unique position to see things at a higher more strategic level. However, instead of going directly to team members they need to shift and begin to take those to the product owner. As they do this the product owner will grow a greater understanding of the nature of the request and potential benefit each of them provide. With this knowledge they’ll be equipped to prioritize this work and appropriately direct the team’s capacity to create the most value for the customer (internal or external).


Danny Presten

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