Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love — Part II

Part II — The Right People

This is where companies fall short

Product Teams (Overview):

It’s all about the product teams

Optimize for effective product teams

Chapter 9: Principles of Strong Product Teams

Sometimes referred to as “Squad” meant to emphasize that these teams are cross-functional (derived from the military concept).

A Product Team:

Brings together different specialized skills and responsibilities and feels real ownership for a product or at least a substantial piece of a larger product.

Team of Missionaries:

We need a team of missionaries not teams of mercenaries — John Doerr

Team Composition:

Comprised of a Product Manager, Product designer and 2–12 engineers for regular products.

If the product doesn’t have a user-facing experience you won’t need a designer as much.

Smaller teams might not have a Product marketing manager, Data analyst and more.

Team empowerment and accountability:

Product Teams are supposed to solve hard problems for the business. They are given clear objectives and they own delivering on those objectives.

Team size:

No rule says all teams are the same size. Different teams need different amounts of engineers. Use the 2 pizza rule.

Team Reporting Structure:

A Product Team is not about reporting relationships.

Normally everyone is an individual contributor and there are no people managers

People on the team typically report to the functional manager

Engineers report to a head of engineering

Product Managers can report to a head of product

This is not about reporting relationships

The PM is not the boss of anyone on the product team

Team collaborations:

Highly skilled people who come together for an extended period to solve hard business problems

Collaboration is at the center of Product

Product / Design / Engineering working out solutions together

This is not a hierarchy

Team Location:

Best companies have learned the value of sitting together

Co-location is best — be close enough to see each other’s computer screens

Special dynamic: Sits together / Eat lunch together / share personal experiences

The co-located team is going to outperform a dispersed team

Team Scope:

What are we responsible for

Product teams need to have responsibility for all of the work

All the projects /features/bugfixes/content changes

Each team is responsible for a smaller but meaningful part of the business at larger companies.

At eBay — Team that protects from fraud or high volume sellers

At Facebook — Teams might be responsible for Newsfeeds or iOS native apps

The concept is highly scalable

Sometimes each team focuses on a different type of user or customer

Sometimes each team focuses on a different type of device

Sometimes each team focuses on a different workflow or customer journey

Sometimes you define the team by the architecture

There’s never a perfect team

Team Duration:

We try hard to keep teams together

Once they work well together it’s beautiful and we try hard to keep that dynamic.

If people are moving from team to team all the time they cannot feel the ownership it’s harder to be passionate about the project.

Team Autonomy:

We need to give teams a significant degree of autonomy

Minimize dependencies between teams (not eliminate)

Why it works:

Product companies moved to this model several years ago

Now it’s the pillar of the strongest teams

Reasons:

  1. Collaboration is built on relationships and product teams (co-located) designed to nurture these relationships
  2. To innovate you need expertise. Durable nature of Product Teams lets people go deep enough to gain expertise
  3. The Dedicated Team Model- The full team needs to understand the business objectives and context. Most importantly the full team needs to feel ownership and responsibility in the father outcome

Principles and techniques:

Key responsibilities:

Make sure what goes on the product backlog is worth building

On the best teams, engineers and designers wanna see evidence that you’re idea is worthwhile

This role is important: Every business depends on customers, what customers buy or choose to use is your product. The product is the result of what the product team builds. And the PM is responsible for what the product team will build.

This is why we hold the PM responsible and accountable

The team is winning when the team wins

PM fails when the product fails

4 Critical Contributions You Need To Bring To Your Team:

Deep knowledge of the customer:

To make this explicit you need to become an expert of the customer

This is what informs a lot of the decisions that must be made

This requires qualitative learning and quantitive learning

The PM must be an expert on your product

Deep knowledge of the data:

Most PM’s start their day / half an hour or so in the analytics tools

Sales/ Usage / of the last 24hours

PM’s need to know the live and previous data

Deep knowledge of your business:

This means knowing who your key stakeholders are

Succeeding in the job of the product means convincing that you can deliver on products under constraints of stakeholders

Deep knowledge of your market and industry:

Know your competitors

Trends in customer behaviors

Understanding the role of social media in your market

Know how sticky other products are

You need to be substantially better

Your products will need to fit in an ecosystem of other products and add significant value to it

Create products for the future not now

What is possible is constantly changing

3 Critical Contributions You Need To Bring To Your Team Summary:

In some companies, PM’s might need domain experts.

Smart Creative and persistent:

By: Smart

Intellectually curious

Reach new audiences

Enable new business models

By: Creative

Thinking outside of features to solve business problems and be ready

To implement new business models

By: Persistent

Pushing companies way beyond their comfort zone

Start by becoming an expert for your users and customers

Be willing to share information freely and often

Build a relationship with your stakeholders and communicate that you know the constraints they operate under

Become an expert on your industry

Establish a relationship with your product team

Product manager profiles:

Google: Jane Manning

Adobe: Lea Hickman

Microsoft: Martina Lauchengco

Apple: Camille Hearst

Netflix: Kay Arnold

Founder / CEO @Kozen