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How to get best of SM, PM & DM

  • Posted by admin
  • On October 28, 2016
  • agile, Delivery, Delivery Manager, Product manager

Very recently when I was facilitating a retrospective, where one of the main concern was the Product manager trying to step on shoes of team, Service manager and Delivery manager.  How often have you heard of these scenario? I have encountered these situations at GDS, HomeOffice Digital and even in private sector. Also many of my colleagues have seen the similar confusion around roles and responsibilities of service manager, product manager and delivery manager.

GDS service manual talks about these roles however on ground level we have seen the roles are not well understood by teams as well as by the people playing the roles themselves hence the confusion and chaos. Through this blog I want to express my thoughts about the problem and provide some simple tips on how to get the best of all three roles Service managers, Delivery managers and product managers.

The roles definitely differ, rather than focusing on roles we should instead focus on the interests/outcomes because roles worked well when organizations were structured based on one proven way to do things. The best product teams, whether operating within an agile methodology or not, are focused on what’s best for the product and team over their own aspirations. And when they do, they deliver a product experience that meets user needs. One example where outcomes trumps over role is avoiding blame culture i.e: “He/She is responsible for that, so it’s not my fault.” Where as in outcomes we are rallying around a service for meeting user needs.

Simplistic view of the roles is explained by Henrik Kniberg in the picture below


It talks about three activities

  1. Do the right thing.
  2. Do things right.
  3. Get better and better every day.


Service managers, Product managers and team including user researchers are involved heavily in getting the right needs needed for service and the team is responsible in building those needs in right way and coach/delivery manager work with team to improve every day. Read more on service manager mindset is explained here and also good reference on how delivery manager and product manager are complementary to each other here. The intersection of the three positions is critical to delivering a successful product and leading a successful agile team.


Few simple things that can be done to avoid situations described at the start by having a session during start of the project to talk about

  1. Outcomes or impacts needed for service
  2. Ways of working, this is very simple but effective thing because it highlights the needs of the team to work together for e.g. I don’t work on Friday’s or I don’t want meetings during lunch hours due to my gym commitments
  3. Definition of done session: start it by asking simple question about the lifecycle of a story from idea to delivery this creates a transparency on what is expected of each other and also make sure you make the definition of done visible in the team area
  4. Separate session between product manager, service manager and delivery manager on what is expected of each to deliver outcomes. Socialize the outputs to teams.


Above steps improve the collaboration and shared responsibility within the team, teams explore multiple beneficial sweet spots to have an abundance of options for success. For us, in Syrian project team including service manager @bmarchibald, User researcher @Emilyball53 etc fully worked together as a team towards a common goal and delivered two services, Help Refugees and Case working tool, that meet the user needs and within rapid time scales.


Finally I would like end this blog with a picture by Gojko Adzic that has stuck through my mind for sometime now.







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