Six reasons your product team isn’t scaling (and how to fix it)

I like product management – and I’m not alone. Many of us got into PM roles through a passion for problem solving and a real desire to see a project succeed in the hands of customers. That’s the fun part, and modern methodologies like Agile are continuously evolving to better support customer-driven products.

What hasn’t evolved nearly as much is how we manage and lead product teams – with ten years of experience in this field, I’ve seen that the way we approach organizing product management is still holding us back.

This isn’t just a pet peeve of mine: recognizing this problem, Darrell Rigby, Jeff Sutherland, and Hirotaka Takeuchi published an article in the Harvard Business Review on the need for management organizations and non-technology functions to adopt agile methodologies.

I want to explore how we manage a collection of product teams operating at scale – because this is the critical topic for organizations that are growing from a single product effort into a diverse range of products, and because finding a better model will frankly restore some of the fun of product management! Continue reading “Six reasons your product team isn’t scaling (and how to fix it)”

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Part I – Structuring the product team

Recently, a young, successful tech company asked me to come up with a product planning model for them. I started out by listing off what was already working for them :

  • Internal entrepreneurialism
  • Building projects around small teams of motivated individuals
  • Dual-tracking : small teams for products and separate ones for shared, core components

Then I listed six key goals that are difficult to achieve when you’re newly successful and growing fast:

  1. Keeping leaders informed of everything that is going on
  2. Getting line-level product managers onto a consistent process
  3. Adjusting top-level strategy based on what is working
  4. Identifying what innovation to nurture among all the activity
  5. Discovering shared components that are in decline
  6. Investing mindfully across short, mid and long-term projects

If we want to add that second category of ideals to the mix, it will help to first take a step back and look at Product Management in general. Continue reading “Part I – Structuring the product team”

Part II – Implementing a marketplace-style product lifecycle process

In Part I we looked at organization theory, determined that a classic hierarchy wasn’t what we wanted, and discussed what marketplace-style organization model could do for us. So what does this look like in practice? Let me introduce you to the Check-in Meeting.

The Check-in Meeting is a venue for reviewing and socializing relevant information about product development efforts. It takes the form of a recurring meeting on a fixed cadence with a queue of topics in three categories:

  • Product Plan Review : Present a new project plan or new phase/initiative of an existing project, to propose alignment with an existing strategy and prioritization
  • Progress to Plan : Measure a project against stated milestones and goals, in order to secure or retain allocated resources
  • Strategy Review : Periodic review and debate of top-level product strategy among CPO and directors, informed by data from recent PPR and PTP topics.

Continue reading “Part II – Implementing a marketplace-style product lifecycle process”