Much of the Agile and Scrum Training offered in today’s market is focused on a role or an accountability.  There are classes for Product Owners, Developers and Scrum Masters. People have even created training for leaders and managers working in an Agile environment.   

One role that’s been underserved in the Agile training space is that of the stakeholder. Stakeholders have a large impact in the success (or failure) of a product development effort. There is great irony here, of course, because ultimately the stakeholders include the people for whom we are building the product.   

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In this post, I will attempt to alleviate some of this deficit. While I primarily use Scrum-based nomenclature, these tips are also applicable in non-Scrum environments. It’s important to note that I define “stakeholder” as anyone who has a stake in the product. This term is inclusive of clients, customers, users, other business functions (e.g. marketing), regulators (e.g. FDA), etc. With these disclaimers in place, let’s look at 5 ways that stakeholders can help teams deliver more value: 

  1. Attend the Sprint Review – Attending the Sprint Review shows that you care about the product. We show love in our professional lives the same way we show love in our personal lives – time and money. If you can’t make time to attend the Sprint Review, you don’t love the product. If you don’t love the product, why am I, as a Developer, working on it?
  2. Provide Feedback – As Developer, I want to delight you with the product that I am building.  The only way that I can achieve this goal is if you provide me with regular feedback on how I can improve the product. I can’t solve a problem if I don’t know that one exists. So please let me know what you think of the product and how it can be improved.
  3. Tell me “What”, not “how” – As a developer, I want to create. When you bring me a solution to the problem, when you tell me for example that you want a button and drop-down list, you limit my ability to create.  Not only does this hurt morale, it also limits innovation.  If you tell me your problem, I can use my skills as a Developer to create a solution that may be even better than what you conceived.
  4. Respect the Product Owner – Whether it’s the Product Owner in Scrum, the Customer in XP, or whoever is authorizing the work under another framework, please respect their authority. As Developers, we get requests from a multitude of people. Having a single person prioritize those requests based on the overall value they provide allows us to focus and deliver something of value in each increment.
  5. Recognize that this isn’t easy – While we make software development look easy, it’s a very hard game to play and play well.  The only way that we are going to regularly deliver valuable products is to iterate, communicate and collaborate. 

Want to learn more about how to be a good stakeholder? Please check out our upcoming Scrum Certification classes here