The following interview provides an overview of Roman’s background and thinking. For more information, please refer to Roman’s LinkedIn page. The interviewer was Noopur Pathak, and the conversation was originally published on 10 May 2018.
Why did you start your journey in agile product management?
Roman: When I began working with product managers in 2001 while introducing Extreme Programming at a healthcare company, product and Agile seemed worlds apart. The product management practices I encountered were very old-school and waterfall. I had a similar experience when I taught Scrum to product managers at a telco company in 2004. Back then I thought that product management would have to be reinvented to take full advantage of an agile way of working. Luckily, this turned out to be unnecessary. But I still think that the profession has tremendously changed over the last ten years influenced by Scrum, Lean Startup, and Business Model Generation.
What inspired you to write books?
Roman: Writing a book helps me reflect on my experience and consolidate my knowledge. At the same time, I hope that the readers will benefit from the contents! Before I started working on my last book Strategize, I felt that many product people lacked guidance on product strategy, and that there weren’t many books available that focused on strategy and roadmaps for digital products.
I really enjoy the creative act of writing. But working on a book can be challenging. There are difficult moments and setbacks such as slow progress, low motivation, an early review that indicates that more work is needed, to name just a few. These are great opportunities to learn and grow as a writer, product expert, and human being. But while experiencing these challenges, they don’t feel particularly pleasant, though, and initially, I am usually not very grateful for the experience!
What is the current state of agile product management?
Roman: I see a mixed picture: While agile product management has tremendously benefited some businesses, not all companies have been able to make the necessary changes to establish the new way of working. In the worst case, project managers are rebranded as product owners, groups of people are called squads, and there are now chapters and tribes. But when you take a closer look, little has changed: The product owners are not empowered and lack the necessary skills; the organisation is still project-driven; and the teams are not cohesive, self-organising teams but collections of individuals.