Visiting developers around the world often reminds me of why an agreed way of working is one of the most critical understandings a team can have. More specifically I was reminded of the giant fustercluck that can result when you lack a stakeholder that is also the stickholder. You know what I mean.
One of the most common issues that creative teams suffer from is the lack of a single stakeholder, aka a principle product owner, who owns the product vision and can give specific guidance when a team reaches an impasse or runs astray. A clear product owner can step in to clarify misunderstandings and ensure a certain degree of alignment between team members while they pursue their goal. This can keep the team more focused, on track and ensures a higher likelihood of success when contrasting final results against the expected acceptance criteria. In short they provide the structure and framework that helps give creative work a context.
Two stickholding stakeholders parley.
Basically think of the product owner as the principle stakeholder in the group. And that stakeholder has a big stick. If you go out of alignment too far, you get wacked with the stick. This brings you back into alignment. Hopefully.†
More often than not the mere presence of a strong stakeholder can create problems…
The absence of a strong stakeholder has its own pitfalls…
Clearly the middle ground is preferable to the all too common extremes listed above. But how do you encourage a team to collaborate and cooperate with each other while maintaining alignment towards a clear and distinctive goal?†
A moderate principle stakeholder is exceptionally rare, knowing when to act as a mentor and coach alongside the team, while at other times giving strong guidance and clear direction. Perhaps the most difficult part is knowing when to back off and let the team find their own way knowing there are going to be painful learning experiences along the way. Though exceptionally difficult, this type of stakeholder arguably has the best chance to produce stronger team members, and better results† through a combination of encouraging a level of autonomy, providing guidance towards a purpose and inspiring mastery in the form of superior accomplishment.
Regardless of the stakeholder you are dealing with, they had better be a stickholder. I mean…no one screws with a Wizard right?