Keeping stand-ups short

Stand-ups are supposed to be short. Sometimes, however, one or more team members start going into too much detail and the chat drifts off to a different subject.

When one of us thinks that the conversation should be taken offline or discussed with a smaller/different group of people – we take advantage of Mango rule – anyone at the meeting can simply say ‘Mango!’.

Just to be clear – it doesn’t mean ‘shut up’. It means – ‘this is off-topic, take it offline’.

This is a fun way of staying focussed on the subject and practicing team self discipline. My team loves it so much, that it has become a verb (i.e. Can we mango this please?). From time to time they are even ‘mangoing’ themselves…


Product Vision

As a Product Owner, you are in charge of the product vision. Whatever you come up with – people will most likely ignore it if they weren’t part of the process of creating it.

I’ve asked my team to discuss the product vision and come up with a statement that everyone would sign. We started from analysing product visions from some well known companies.

What others do?


Dude Logo NoStrapline_CMYK

“Make natural, delicious food and drink that helps people live well and die old.”



“Our vision is to be earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”



“We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing. We are constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change. And I think regardless of who is in what job those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well.”



“To create a better every day life for the many people.”


 “A computer on every desk and in every home; all running Microsoft software.”



“We will destroy Yamaha.” (in 1970)



“Crush Adidas.” (in 1960)


“To become the Harvard of the West.”



“To make people happy.”



To achieve sustainable growth, we have established a vision with clear goals:

Profit: Maximizing return to share owners while being mindful of our overall responsibilities.

People: Being a great place to work where people are inspired to be the best they can be.

Portfolio: Bringing to the world a portfolio of beverage brands that anticipate and satisfy peoples; desires and needs.

Partners: Nurturing a winning network of partners and building mutual loyalty.

Planet: Being a responsible global citizen that makes a difference.

Our product vision

In our meeting we quickly discovered, that it’s not that easy to come up with a statement that everyone would be happy with. That’s because each person had a different vision in mind… Good job we discovered it sooner rather than later!

As a motivator for a compelling vision, we kept challenging each other: imagine you meet the company founder and he asks Why are you here? What would you say?

Why are you here?

It was a very engaging and stormy meeting. For a while we even thought it might be not possible… We eventually agreed to one product vision, that everyone was happy to sign. Nothing good comes easy!

Our product vision

It was much better idea to do it together as a team, than leaving it to a single person. If team members don’t buy the vision it’s like living without a vision at all.


Communication skills

Communication is important. Not just for a Product Owner, but the whole team. Especially if it’s not a collocated one.

This is an excellent test for your team – a fun exercise that will uncover communication issues that nobody was aware of.


  • Time needed: 45 – 60 minutes (30 minutes for the exercise + time for discussion).
  • Number of people needed: 4-6.
  • Divide the team to 3 groups.
  • Groups A and C go to different rooms.
  • Group A gets a picture that only they can see (a child-like drawing works well).
  • Group C gets a pen and a sheet of paper.
  • Group B, called ‘Runners’ stays with group A for now. Their task is to communicate between Group A and Group C.
Communication exercise-01
Example setup

How it works:

  1. Group A and Runners discuss what’s on the picture. Runners can ask any questions they want, but they can’t see the picture and they can’t take notes. Group A can see the picture all the time.
  2. Runners move to Group C and convey the information.
  3. Group C draws a picture based on what they are told. They can ask additional questions about anything.
  4. Runners come back to Group A to ask for more details.
  5. Steps 2,3,4 are repeated as many times as needed till the time is up.
  6. The person facilitating the exercise should spend some time with each of the groups, silently observing.
  7. At the end – ask the team how well they think they performed.
  8. Show both pictures to everyone and discuss. What went well, what could be improved? Any actions?

Some things to pay attention to:

  • Does the team start from the big picture or details?
  • Does the team optimise the way they work during the exercise?
  • Is the team aware of time and how fast they are progressing?
  • Is the team focussing on the most important elements?
  • What assumptions are made?

How my team performed:

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 17.36.00
Original picture
communication exercise
Drawn by the team

What we observed:

  • The team jumped straight into details. Only 10 minutes into the exercise they discussed proportions of some key elements.
  • Runners split after the first exchange to save time. They didn’t however communicate between themselves, which caused asking the same questions twice. Surprisingly, they sometimes got different answers to the same questions, which required extra communication.
  • Group A also split, so they could deal with Runners separately, which resulted in one member not knowing if the horse was going to be present on the team picture at all at the end of the exercise.
  • The team didn’t plan the execution for the time given. This caused rushing at the end and asking for extra time to complete.
  • Some key elements were described in much detail, while others were very basic.
  • An assumption was made that characters on the picture sit at a table. It was quite quickly rectified though.
  • The overall result was good, but the team thought it was worse.
  • The team enjoyed working together and they want to repeat the exercise in a few months time to see if they can perform better.
  • The team is proud of their work.

It was definitely great fun and a good learning experience for the team. Try it yourself.

Noteworthy tools

There are some tools that make my job as a Product Owner much easier. My Top 10 and a bonus one:


Jira – a very powerful tool for managing the backlog. There are plenty of integrations and extensions available. jira-logo

Designing wireframes

Balsamiq Mockups – for sketching user interfaces. Many UI elements ready to drag & drop and you can add your own too. balsamiq-logo

Prototyping – for creating fully interactive hi-res prototypes, which can be tested on any device and look & feel like a real app. Great customer service. protoio_logo

Flow charts

Lucid Chart – an easy way of creating and sharing flowchart diagrams.



Evernote – for taking notes (and much more). Notes can be combined with images and other UI elements. Works on any device as an app and as a website. Excellent speed of search.



Trello Board – great for to-do lists, sharing ideas and roadmaps. Might be even used as a backlog. Works as a website and an app.


Team communication

Slack – a tool to organise team communication into channels. Great for remote teams. slack-logo

File sharing

Dropbox – for storing and sharing files in the cloud. Works on any device and synchronises seamlessly.



Prezi – to wow the audience with animated slides. Many templates ready to use. prezi_horizontal

Image editor

Pixelmator – powerful, easy and beautiful image editor for Mac.


 Documents, spreadsheets, slides etc.

Google Apps for Work  – for creating any kind of documents. Simple and easy to share, available from anywhere. google-for-work-new-logo