Why all Product Owners should be dickheads

Remember when you were a kid, and there was this other kid who stole your toys? He was a dickhead, right? (Yes kids can be dickheads!). I'm that kid. I steal your toys, not because I want to be a dickhead, but because it makes me better at my job.

Let me explain.

I've been working in Product in one form or another for about a decade. Sometimes for companies like Mindgeek, Hostelworld or most recently, Flipdish.

When I wasn't working for a company, I was trying out my own things, like making €20k selling used cardboard boxes, or more recently making web apps like mydevportfol.io, referextra.com, or livedata.ninja.

Product "ownership" versus Product ownership

I realised recently that there was a fundamental difference between the two types of product ownership that I've been doing the past 10 years. In once situation, I'm hired and paid a salary to make incremental improvements to a product, and in the other, I literally owned the thing.

If I hired a marketing person to promote one of my own products, there's absolutely no way I'd tolerate them doing something I didn't think was correct. The reason is obvious, it's MINE. I'm not gonna let someone ruin something I own, and I'm definitely not gonna let them waste my money either.

But in a company, there's these layers of abstraction that mean I'm not quite as invested. Why do I really care if the company's spending 30% more on a marketing campaign than I think is necessary. It's not directly my money, even if I've got shares in the company.

What that means is it's very easy for me as a Product Owner to forget about all those things and just make sure the devs have tickets ready for the next sprint.

This is obviously bad. So, how do I actively combat this mentality now to make sure I'm making products the best way possible? Why, by being a dickhead of course!

How it usually goes as a Product Owner

More often than not, as a Product Owner you're implementing someone else's vision or idea. Your CEO or senior manager tells you the initiatives for the next X number of months, and you create a roadmap to cater to those initiatives.

This is normal, you likely don't have the insight they have (yet). But as I mentioned above, this can easily lead to sub-standard work, and we don't like sub-standard.

Adopting the dickhead Product Ownership mentality

To overcome this, you must be the dickhead kid who steals the toys. You have to effectively steal the idea away from your manager or CEO. You have to convince your brain that YOU thought of it and that it's YOUR product. Only then will you have the emotional investment that will make your good at your job.

All Product Owners must embrace the dickhead within

So remember, be a dickhead. The "Product Owner" title isn't just a fancy term you learned at an overpriced course in a smelly hotel. It's more descriptive than I initially realised.  


In case you're still not convinced, being a dickhead is also cool:

You've successfully subscribed to Chris Dermody
Great! Next, complete checkout to get full access to all premium content.
Error! Could not sign up. invalid link.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Error! Could not sign in. Please try again.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Error! Stripe checkout failed.
Success! Your billing info is updated.
Error! Billing info update failed.