PO Board Overview


This, in my experience, is the key to making the Product Owner role sustainable: represent the work so that you have the right detail at the right time, and then work right to left every day until you run out of time, and then stop. And then do it again tomorrow. You’ll get further left when you need to, but you don’t have to do it every day.

In this episode, Richard shares our favorite tool for helping Product Owners restore some sanity to their lives. The PO Board is a way to structure the Product Backlog so that the Product Owner knows exactly what to focus on, at what level of detail, and with which stakeholders on any given day.
Most Product Backlogs have too much detail, too far in the future, which causes a high level of churn and waste as many rather-detailed items never make it to the top of the backlog. It also, paradoxically causes POs to fail at both being sufficiently strategic and sufficiently tactical. They’re too busy to zoom out and look at the big picture for the medium to long-term. And they’re too busy to collaborate with their team in the details.

The PO Board models a product backlog as a Kanban system with work-in-progress (or WIP) limits for how much work gets represented at a particular level of detail. Closer to the top of the backlog gets more details, further out gets less. Richard made the first formal version of this about 12 or 13 years ago. Since then, we have been evolving the model to better fit our own needs and the needs of our clients. We’ve now taught this approach to thousands of Product Owners, and they regularly report that it has been a huge help in bringing some order to a job that is too chaotic and stressful far too often.

Some references to learn more about this approach:

Download the most recent PO Board Visual
Download “Managing Your Product Backlog” for details on using the PO Board
Read more about MMFs (Minimal Marketable Features)
Check out the full Guide to Story Splitting

The marked up versions of the PO Board from Richard’s walkthrough

Illustration of the overall structure

Illustration of some of the details

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