Product owners have one of the hardest jobs in an agile team; they have to decide on what needs to be done, what is most important, whether something is still worthwhile all at a moment’s notice. The price of getting the wrong product owner is even more significant than not getting the best item to work on now.
Provide a vision
A product owner gives a development team their vision, their reason for why this product matters to them and the business. Giving a team these foundations for the project allows the developers to feel some ownership – they are not merely cogs in a machine. Further, the passion and enthusiasm that an owner shows for their product becomes infectious; developers become caught in the idea of delivering the best software they can.
The other side of this is the absent product owner, physically or mentally. Developers have little engagement with the owner and become increasingly disillusioned with developing the software – why bother, no one in management cares. These teams enter a slow spiral to the bottom.
However, restoring them to a productive, useful team can be remarkably easy. Provide the developers with a direction, a clear sense of purpose on the owner’s part and the feeling that the management is interested in the project’s outcome and they will quickly start to turn around.