Gabriel Steinhardt – an open letter

Welcome to another post in my “Death of agile” series. This post is an open letter to Gabriel Steinhardt, a Product Management expert from Blackblot.

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Dear Gabriel,

In your keynote at Agile On The Beach and your subsequent blog post you characterise agile practitioners as “confused … about how Agile should be implemented.”


Let me clear one thing up for you: agile is not a “product development method.” If you take a brief look at the Agile Manifesto you will quickly see that it is a set of guiding values and principles. Specifically the manifesto makes no mention of a “Product Owner“, so any confusion that you might have encountered over interpretations of this role is strictly limited to implementations of Scrum.

More generally, I assert that confusion among adherents to a philosophy, methodology or belief system does not logically invalidate that system. There is confusion and disagreement among Product Managers, despite your implication to the contrary. I have no opinion on your company’s product management methodology, but I’m sure I could find successful project managers who disagree about its utility.

Recall that agile approaches first came into existence to avoid expensive project failures that were attributed to ‘Big Design Up Front‘ approaches favoured by traditional waterfall methods. Your suggestion that developers have no place in the ‘problem’ space, and all communication should be mediated through a “Product Architect“, seems like a retrograde step that brought back memories of nightmares I have no wish to relive.

You go on to admit that you “do not know much about Agile or other product development methods which reside in the solution space.” Agile approaches are not limited to the solution space and are certainly not about technical specialists trying to annex product management. They advocate communication and collaboration between all stakeholders in order to minimise confusion and maximise value for the customer. That this was not clear to you is obviously a failing, though I am still not sure whether it is a failing of the agile community or of the brevity of your research.







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