Is your product management team doing a good job?

Credit: Martin Eriksson, source.

The single, most important way, we influence our products success is by influencing our teams.

We have to drill down further to get anything meaty out of this. I’d like to propose three key things we should be asking ourselves as product management teams. These things revolve around the who, the what, and, arguably the most important, the why. Our primary job is to build a shared understanding of these things, which in turn helps our teams build better products.

Practically applying this within your team

Within one of our product teams at Atlassian we surveyed our sub-teams (developers, designers, engineers…) about this. Side note: I’m generally not a fan of surveys (this blog nails it), but if used correctly, they can point your team into some things you need to drill into.

The who

The what

The why

Measure passion

We also asked a bonus question to work out if we are doing a good job of evangelising the problem to our teams. Again, from a scale of one to five, we asked team members to indicate their level of agreement with:

Results in, what next?

We ran this survey across multiple teams (each with different product managers). The results were incredibly useful. It helped us identify where we were doing a good job, and more importantly, it informed our team of where we had gaps in our shared understanding.

  • The Who: Look into building a shared understanding around personas, customer interviews or contextual visits.
  • The What: Consider exploring techniques which help understand user flows. Things like a journey, story mapping or the five whys. Maybe also ensure the team is aligned on what decisions have (or need to) be made.
  • The Why: Look into your toolbox for techniques or frameworks to align on the bigger picture. Do we have a vision painted? Are we clear on our mission? Can we connect what we’re doing to our company goals and strategy? Does everyone understand why our roadmap prioritises something over another?
  • If you’re running the survey for multiple teams, be sure to scope the questions by asking what team someone is on first. You want to ensure the appropriate feedback can be redirected to the product manager of that team.
  • Running the survey again a few months later will help you to measure how the team is progressing (e.g. We’re looking into doing this quarterly, but making sure the survey remains short).
  • Make sure the results are discussed as a product management team. Before you jump into techniques to help improve the who, what or why make sure your team has the confidence they understand why some of those gaps may exist. If they don’t first do some further research with those who filled out the survey to get their context.
  • Post-survey set an action plan and assign owners for who will do what. Agree on a date you’ll check-in to see how things are progressing.
  • Celebrate your successes. If there is something a team is scoring well in ask yourself why. What did that team do? There might be techniques to share with other product teams.

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