Interview: Peter Monkhouse and Joanna Tivig

by Colors in Projects


Interview with Peter Monkhouse and Joanna Tivig, autors of: 𝐺𝑒𝑛 𝑃: 𝑁𝑒𝑤 𝐺𝑒𝑛𝑒𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑜𝑓 𝑃𝑟𝑜𝑑𝑢𝑐𝑡 𝑂𝑤𝑛𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝑊ℎ𝑜 𝐶𝑎𝑟𝑒 𝐴𝑏𝑜𝑢𝑡 𝐶𝑢𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑚𝑒𝑟𝑠 (2019).

Peter Monkhouse is founder of NewGenP, a training organization focused on product management courses. Peter Monkhouse is an experienced speaker, educator, and consultant with over 40 years of experience leading teams and organizations to deliver value through projects. Peter has been a keynote speaker around the world and delivered courses at Ryerson, the University of Toronto, and the University of Calgary. He recently co-authored the bestselling book Gen P: New Generation of Product Owners who Care about Customers and has given successful presentations and workshops based on the book.

Joanna Tivig has been an instructor for the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies for over a decade, teaching courses of product and project management. Joanna is currently Co-founder of NewGenP, a training organization focused on product management courses. She is also a bestselling co-author of the recent book Gen P – New Generation of Product Owners Who Care About Customers. Joanna has been speaking at various events and has presented as host at the Toronto Agile Conference in 2018 and 2019. She has over 15 years of corporate experience, leading Agile software development initiatives in financial services, and applying project management practices.

1. What triggered you to write (and successfully launch on Amazon) a book about product ownership?

We are both senior instructors for the University of Toronto. During one of our collaborations for course development, we started talking about some major challenges organizations have: executing their strategy and adapting the product development to the constant changes in the market. Everything circled back around the role of the product owner. We believe the product owner role is key in changing business mindsets and focus the organization on strategic priorities. So, we decided to write about it, so we built these arguments in what was to become a best-selling book Gen P: New Generation of Product Owners Who Care About Customers. It is a book that aims to inspire the new generation of professionals to transform the ways of working and keep the customer in mind.

2. The title of the book is: Gen P: New Generation of Product Owners Who Care About Customers. Why do we talk about the new generation, what happened with the previous one?

In our experience, we notice two types of product owners in organizations more like two generations. The first is those product owners who are in the marketing departments. They are focused on sales, immediate customer engagements and typically with a short-term view of the product’s life cycle. The marketing product owner rarely considers the long-term view of the product or owning the product through its life cycle. The second is the product owner role, typically on agile teams working with Scrum or Kanban. This product owner is asked to be the ‘voice of the customer’ without having any understanding of the value the product is delivering to the customer and in many cases does not have any power of decision making.
We need a new generation of product owners, to fill the gaps of the previous roles and build successful products that deliver value to customers and benefits to organizations. Our mission is to encourage organizations to think differently about product owners, to give them accountability for product development and authority of decision making, to help teams deliver value in the hands of the customer faster.

3. How is your book different from other books that are promoting and describing the agile way of working?

There are two key differences that Gen P brings to the discussion. First, we take the point of view of the product and the importance of organizations focusing on the value that their products deliver to customers. Second, our book goes beyond agile. Typically agile is associated with IT projects. We believe that an iterative product development approach can be and must be used for all products in any industry sector. In our book, we have examples from a variety of sectors showing how an iterative approach to product development, a focus on delivering value, and empowering product owners and teams can lead to success.

4. In Romania we have many young entrepreneurs and start-ups eager to launch new products that we’ll become the next Facebook or Instagram (in terms of success and number of users). What would you recommend for such ambitious entrepreneurs?

Just do it! First, remember not every start-up becomes the next Facebook or Amazon, but they can lead to an exciting career and open other opportunities. Here are some tips:

  • Use the lean start-up approach and create a minimum viable product (MVP). Figure out what is the minimum number of features you can deliver to provide value to your customers and deliver it. Get the feedback from your customer and then plan on the next step. Even if the feedback is negative, you know what to do.
  • Listen to your customers. Listen to your true customers and segments of your customers – the personas. Learn how they are using the product and what they really think about the product. Dig for the truth!
  • Build a strong team you can rely on. You are not the expert, they are.
  • Bring your passion. This is your start-up; you need to provide the passion and energy.
  • Read Gen P!

5. Joanna, you left Romania for Canada some years ago, is there anything that you learn in Canada that you would suggest to us, or you could recommend us to do?

Find the passion, as a product owner, entrepreneur or anything you want to become. Then find partners that can help achieve that passion. When I came from Romania I wasn’t very good at making friends or networking. I guess a reminiscence of the school years when we were asked to keep our hands behind our backs and don’t ask questions unless asked to. So I had to learn how to ask questions, how to make friends, and most importantly how to ask for help when I needed it. It’s amazing that a lot of influential and knowledgeable people offer help and advice for free, that can help you push things through, get things done and achieve success. And most importantly, when you become successful, don’t forget where you started from, be humble and recognize the people around you, who helped build your success, reach out and say ‘thank you’.