TL;DR — The role of the product owner is not to come up with the best ideas, but to create an environment where the best ideas can be surfaced and measured.
I read with no small amount of interest Joshua Kerievsky’s “Eliminating the Product Owner Role” after being directed to it via Bob Galen’s response in “Here We Go Again, Picking on the Poor Product Owner.”
While I am of the personal belief that we will see a convergence of the PM and PO roles, I don’t believe eliminating the latter is the answer to issues of collaboration and chartering. If anything, I see the removal of product owners as a sure way to not achieve the collaborative community Kerievsky espouses.
I think the answer for my opinion is best reflected in Bob’s comments “All of the aspects in [Joshua’s] problem statement were simple team or role dysfunctions …
… I’d rather help the product owner by providing some coaching than generalize the role and escort them to the door.”
I think coaching is the operative word in this conversation. Not only in coaching a product owner how they might be contributing to the issues of uncollected technical debt and mud-like clarity, but how they may also be in neglect of their responsibilities to evangelize the vision of the product charter. Once capturing that vision, the product owner needs to effect a strategy and the associated tactics to rally the development around the most effective and valuable activities.
Put another way, if your product owner is simply a JIRA-slinging ticket bot, yes, please eliminate — or perhaps I should say refactor — that role in favor of product owners who are evangelists for the vision of the charter Joshua Kerievsky suggests.
Anything less would simply be an act of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.