What to say when your Product Owner keeps asking "are we there yet?" in your daily standup

Developers driving with management in the back seat

“Are we there yet?”

  • The most dreaded question on family road trips. And in daily standups

It’s 9 AM, time for your daily standup.

It might go something like this

Dev A: “I am working on the frontend trying to get my React hook to work”
Dev B: “I’m looking at the migration for the database”
Dev C: “Trying to align the text vertically in the UI. I hate CSS”

Then comes the question you just know the product owner will ask…

“So… are we there yet?”

You roll your eyes a little and say in a calm voice “we’ll tell you when we get there”.

But in your head you are thinking “why the same question? every single day! can’t she see we are working hard over here?”

But stop right there and take a breath.

Why do you think you get the same question every day?

Well, you are not giving her any information that she can work with.

She has people who need this feature to get their work done. And they don’t care about the fact that CSS is hard and hooks in React make no sense whatsoever.

Here is a simple strategy that has worked on every product owner I worked with.

Don’t tell your product owner what you are doing

That’s right. Don’t tell you product owner what you are doing. Tell them where you are at in terms that they can relate to.

Like this…

⛔️ “We are working on the frontend”

What your product owner can do with this information:

Wait and hope that the customers doesn’t get too angry…

✅ “We have a working feature, but it is ugly and we are working on making the UX feel just right”

What your product owner can do with this information:

We have customers who can’t do their job without this feature, so could you please release it as it is and THEN work on making the UX feel just right after that?
I can tell the customers that they can expect a few changes to the UI, no problem.

Result: The product owner has something to work with and give to your users. And an ugly working solution now is better than a perfect solution later, so happy customers!

So next time you feel that your product owner keeps asking “if you are there yet?”, see if you can reframe what you are doing in terms they can act on.

Want some help figuring out how you as a developer can have better conversations with your management?
Drop me a question at tobias@tobiastalltorp.com