The 10 most popular articles I wrote in 2019

Product Owner Dec 23, 2019

Including the story behind each article and my personal favorite of the year

In 2019 I wrote a total of 29 articles. Since September, I have consistently churned out a single article per week.

I became a father this year. For a 5 month period my productivity plummeted and I did not write anything. The joys of fatherhood were more exciting (and draining) than writing.

Thank god for coffee, otherwise I would have stopped writing much longer.

I still haven’t figured out the secret recipe of what readers like to read. I have no clue why some articles do well and others don’t.

Some articles I spend weeks polishing turn out to be a total dud. Other articles I write in less than an hour on the subway resonate with many people. In my experience the articles I spend the least amount of time to write do best.

If you want me to write an article on a specific topic in 2020, please respond or send me a message.

Without further ado, here is a top 10 of my most popular articles of 2019. I also tried to provide the story behind the story, to give a bit more insight in my writing process.

10. Great Product Owners write awful backlog items

Many Product Owners waste a lot of time and effort on writing Backlog Items. I did the same when I started. I noticed my own way of working had evolved and is very different compared to how I started out.

I noticed I was spending far less time on writing requirements and my teams were engaged more than ever before.

9. Tutorial: How to build a ‘Now, Next, Later’-Roadmap in Jira with just 3 easy steps

I was not really excited by the Powerpoint roadmapping process I had to use. It took a lot of time and I felt I had better things to do. I decided to come up with a simpler and better alternative. I made a how-to-guide so others could set it up quickly as well.

8. Scrum in 1000 words for PMs and POs

Out of the three Scrum roles the Product Owner is the most likely to start in the role without having a clue what Scrum is about.

I tried to convey the essence of Scrum in a short and clear way to help new Product Owners and Product Managers get started.

7. Why you should never call the Sprint Review the Sprint Demo

Very often I hear people calling the Sprint Review the Sprint Demo. It seems something small, but I wanted to capture in a convincing way why it is detrimental to call the Sprint Review the Sprint Demo.

6. Recognizing the two types of Monkeys in Scrum

Around me I see many Scrum Masters struggle to decide which problems to tackle and which to leave up to the team. I often see Scrum Masters get involved in problems where they should not be involved, hampering the growth of their team and causing more work for themselves.

I remember reading a popular Harvard Business Review article from the 70s that helped me in deciding which problems to take on. I thought it would be cool to link it to the world of Scrum to help other Scrum Masters.

5. 6 common mistakes when planning a Sprint

Sprint Planning meetings are often dull and uninspiring, while there are easy ways to make the meeting very effective. Spending hours in a meeting room just doesn’t produce better Sprint Plans.

I wanted to share some of the common mistakes together with tips and tricks I use as a Product Owner to keep the meeting short and worthwhile.

4. How to do effective Sprint Planning as a Product Owner?

A lot of articles on Sprint Planning are written mainly from the perspective of the Scrum Master or Development Team. I felt there was a need to write an article from the perspective of the Product Owner

The Product Owner plays a pivotal role in Sprint Planning. I wanted to provide an easy guide to help Product Owners do a great job at planning their Sprints.

3. The only thing that matters when planning a Sprint

When I started using Scrum many years ago, I never used Sprint Goals. I wasn’t a believer. I believed it was impossible to focus on just a single Sprint Goal per Sprint. There simply would always just be too many competing priorities.

I convinced one of the teams I worked with to try out Sprint Goals. It made a massive difference on teamwork, focus, commitment and flexibility. Everybody became much happier after we started using Sprint Goals. It also made me convinced how important the Sprint Goal is.

Seeing the power of using a clear, overarching Sprint Goal, I wanted to capture this spirit in an article to help convince others to make the leap.

2. Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe): when you don’t have the guts to do Scrum

I wrote this article after being approached by a recruiter who wanted me to work at a company that does SAFe. I told him I don’t intend to work at a company that does SAFe.

Never say never, but I dislike bureaucracy and love getting things done.

1. Why most Scrum Masters are destined to fail

The PSM II training I attended by Jesse Houwing made me realize even more why The Scrum Master is such a challenging role.

My partner is a professional trainer in leadership and soft skills. We talked about how difficult the Scrum Master role is. Talking to her inspired me to write the article, because I realized Scrum Masters should pay more attention to growing their soft skills if they want to succeed in their role.

Favorite: If you are not flexible you are not doing Scrum

One of the telltale signs of teams not doing Scrum is inflexibility. Scrum is about responding to changes and new information, so flexibility is essential. Many Scrum Teams seems inflexible and bureaucratic to the outside world.

Writing this article gave me a lot of joy. I was totally immersed and in a state of flow when I wrote it. I believe many teams can benefit from becoming more flexible and responding to change. I hope this article helps to convince teams why flexibility is essential when you do Scrum.

Thanks for a magnificent 2019!

I am humbled and inspired by all the responses, messages and shares my articles received in the past year. Please keep reaching out, as it is part of the joy of writing to hear back from readers.

Picture I made in Amsterdam

If there is any topic you would like me to write about, please don’t hesitate to send a message.

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