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Challenge 3: How do we know if our stakeholders are happier?

The four great challenges of Product Owners

Tracking happiness is difficult and complex, way more than tracking the progress of a project. The first thing to know is that there are no success formulas, no magic tricks to dictate how to do it. Every stakeholder is different.

Here are some perspectives to help Product Owners overcome this challenge.

Consider happiness as a hypothesis

Understanding that they cannot precisely predict happiness, effective Product Teams will consider happiness as the hypothesis behind each Product Backlog item. They ask questions such as “How do we know the item will generate the intended happiness?”, “What measurement should we use to validate it?”, and “How long will it take to discover if it was generated or not?”.

Gothelf and Seiden’s book Lean UX offers great insights around hypotheses and validation.

Focus on results, not the scope of your initiatives

Effective Product Teams understand that the true measure of happiness is the change in behaviour they can observe in their Stakeholders. What are these people doing now that they didn’t or couldn’t do before? We call this transformation “Outcome”. You can visit Behavioral Product Management to learn more about behavioural changes.

Torres defines three different types of behaviour changes when discussing Users:

  • Business outcomes: The behavioural changes we would like to see in our Users.
  • Product outcomes: The behavioural changes that would indicate if Users are happier.
  • Traction outcomes: The change in product usage (usage data).

If we are selling dog food, we could hope for many behavioural changes, such as:

  • Business outcome: Dog owners (Client) buy more food.
  • Product outcome: Dogs (User) get more excited and wag their tails more when they hear our food container open.
  • Traction outcome: With the new flavour, dogs are eating the same portion in half the time.

Traction outcomes are more available and they help us observe a change in behaviour but they usually do not tell the complete story. We need to investigate further to discover if the change is associated with a positive product outcome or not.

Product Owners who help their Product Teams to focus on Outcomes tend to:

  • encourage outcome-based Sprint goals;
  • encourage results-based Sprint objectives ;
  • talk about the expected outcome of product log item refinement sessions; and
  • make sure that the outcomes of their deliveries are reviewed during Sprint Reviews.

Although outcomes can better help us understand if happiness was generated, they can sometimes be difficult to measure. In some cases, we might agree on a specific measure such as “Revenues”, “Margin”, or “ROI” that would help determine happiness. These are called “Output”, they assume happiness instead of observing it.

Be aware that measures affect behaviour

How easy is it to consider the happiness of Makers, if a Product Owner gets a bonus based on sales? Rationally, it should not change a thing, but we are not rational. Our own behaviour can easily become biased against some Stakeholders and reduce the sustainability of the product.

Effective Product Teams have a holistic awareness of the happiness generated by their work. They talk about their potential biases and tie their performance to what really matters.

This introduces the last challenge of Product Owners. How do we define what “really matters”? Or, more practically, how do we order the Product Backlog in order to maximize happiness?


Challenge 4: How do you order the product backlog to maximize happiness?


Product management training at Pyxis Doceo

Find out more about the product management training courses offered by Pyxis Doceo.