The Queue Master

Given my interest in applying agile methods outside of software new product development, I’ve been often uncomfortable with the term “Product Owner”. My problem is two-fold: it’s too specific a term (referring to product development), and it fails to denote the responsibilities except in the most generic fashion. In other words, I think that it is both too specific, and at the same time, not specific enough. Updated the Agile Work cheat sheets to reflect this new terminology.

Several weeks ago an insightful software engineer I was talking with by the name of Sin Stokic came up with a great alternative name for the role: Queue Master.

This name appeals to me by solving my two problems with the Product Owner term:

1. It is a term that is not specific to a problem domain. Agile methods can be applied to all sorts of non-product type of work including operations, services, remediation and exploration. The term “Queue Master” is generic enough to cover all these types of work.

2. It is a term that denotes the actual function that the person filling this role performs, namely, controlling the queue of work that is being fed to the performing team. Since so much of agile methods rests theoretically on queuing theory, this is an appropriate, and more specific term than “Product Owner”.

Additionally, the term “master” is beneficial because it implies a great deal of control and/or expertise that is an essential aspect of this role. The Queue Master must be 1) the master who manages the behavior and properties of the queue of work (the Work Item List), and 2) have mastery of the subject matter contained in the queue of work items.

I would now re-write my previous definition of this role as follows:

The Queue Master holds the final authority for determining the value, priority and details of all work done by an Agile team by controlling the content and ordering of the Work Item List. The Queue Master wields this authority by virtue of a deep knowledge of the goal and end results desired as well as a respected position among all the stakeholders of the endeavor.

I have updated the Agile Work cheat sheets to reflect this new terminology.

All that said, I’m open to suggestions for even better names for this role. I also considered a number of variants such as “Queue Manager”, “Queue Facilitator” and “Queue Keeper” (which has a nice alliteration, but is also a little corny). Thoughts? Reactions?

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