Empowered teaches us about…
- The difference between “feature” teams and empowered product teams.
- Why coaching is essential to innovating at scale—and how to do it.
- The relationship of product teams to the rest of the company.
- Transforming your organization into empowered product teams
Feature Teams vs Empowered Teams
It is common in many companies, including tech companies, that product teams are not allowed to work the way they need to. There are differences between great companies versus the others in the ways they work. One main problem is that many companies have the old IT mindset when it comes to technology. In this scenario IT is viewed as a cost and not a core business enabler like it should.
There is little if any active coaching of the people on technology teams. Even if they wanted to coach, the managers often don’t have the experience themselves, so it creates problems. Most of these companies recognize they do not have the right staff, but have misguided ideas about how to correct the problem and what to look for in product staff.
Behind Every Great Company
How the company views technology: A strong product company views technology not as an expense, but as core business. The product team serves customers by creating products customers love and work for the business.
The role of the product team leaders: In most companies, the role of product leaders is largely missing. There is no product strategy. In strong product companies, product leaders are some of the most impactful leaders in the company. They are empowered, and empowered product teams need skilled people. This is the job of the product leader, to find and recruit a team.
How the company views the purpose of the product teams: In strong product companies, teams are given problems to solve, rather than features to build, and most importantly, they are empowered to solve those problems in the best way they see fit. They are then held accountable for the results.
Coaching is Essential for Innovation
The logic is simple: Your company depends on successful products, and successful products come from strong product teams. Coaching is what turns ordinary people into extraordinary product teams.
The Coaching Mindset
- Developing people is Job #1
- Empowering people produces the best results
- Beware of your own insecurities
- Cultivate diverse points of view
- Seek out teaching moments
- The One-on-One
- Sharing context
- Thinking and acting like a product person
- Providing feedback
Creating Empowered Product Teams
Staffing is one of the clear and essential differences between strong product companies and the rest. The best product companies hire competent people of character, then coach and develop them into members of amazing teams. In far too many companies, the leaders equate staffing with hiring, which will reduce the chances of building the organization you need. It is also important to realize that staffing is the responsibility of the hiring manager, not the HR department.
Product Vision and Principles
- A good product vision keeps us focused on the customer.
- A good product vision serves as the North Star for the product organization, so that we have a common understanding of what we are hoping to accomplish together.
- A good product vision inspires ordinary people to create extraordinary products.
- A good product vision provides us with meaningful work.
- A good product vision leverages relevant industry trends and technologies that we believe can help us solve problems for our customers in ways that are just now possible.
Product strategy means, how do we make the product vision a reality while meeting the needs of the company. Why is that so hard? Because it requires four things that are not easy for most companies.
- Be willing to make tough choices on what is really important
- Generating, identifying, and leveraging insights
- Converting insights into actionable items
- Active management without resorting to micromanagement
The Role of Product Leaders
Moving the product teams from the subservient feature team model to the collaborative empowered product team model begins with trust–especially between the product organization and the rest of the leaders of the business. The keys to that trust is in the product leaders, especially the head of products.
In any case, the product leaders must establish a direct relationship with the CEO (or general manager in a very large company) and the other key executives. That’s usually the heads of sales, marketing, service, finance, legal, and business development. This list varies at each company. The basis of this relationship is that the executives need to believe the product leaders have a deep understanding of the business and are committed to ensuring that the solutions provided will work for the various aspects of the business:
It’s clear there are a substantial differences between the top product companies and the rest. It’s those differences that has enabled them to become the companies they are today. The main issue is not that other companies don’t want to be like top product companies, it’s that they don’t necessarily understand how to get there from where they currently stand. More often than not, when an attempt is made to change, it is made incorrectly because of the lack of understanding on how to build an amazing product company with empowered teams.