Product people need to be good in everything, period.
That’s why building a good team are matters
It’s start to intrigued me when we have half year KPI review. After a long and exhausted 6 first months, what we usually do is to checking metrics here and there and see what we achieve or not, we evaluate why this happen, either good and bad, and what plan we need to keep and what to change. Another 6 last months will be harder because there is the line that do we achieve our yearly target or not [and get salary increase or promotion or not as well LOL].
One small and important aspects that we often see as non crucial metrics are getting feedback from other division. As a division who works a lot with other division, product people tend to forget how important is this. Products are build not by the machine, but by the people. It takes everyone from Engineer, Growth, Marketing, Technical Support or even Customer Service to build big, reliable and scale-able product.
Sometimes we just ask them “Is there something wrong with our team? or this x person?” or maybe we try to quantified their feedback such “Can you rate this person performance from 1–10?”. We’re not as curious as when we talk to user, we’re not asking the magic words, Why?
So this year I start something different, I talk one-on-one with some people from each of other division and start to asking more deep questions, “why you rate us/this x person good? why rate us/this x person bad?” on the bottom of the line, I want to understand their perceived in product people, what makes product people good or bad, based on their point of view.
After digging deep and connecting the dots, the answer is clear, product people need to be good in everything. In short, business team want products to understand business and strategic thinking more, engineer want product to build a detail and better requirement, customer service want product to think on how if the user complain and building tools for their agent and technical support want a quick response product people. So yeah, if we combine everything, we need to be a superman. Aren’t we in a deep shit?
Now the next question is, how product division solved this superman-esque issue? We’re good in solving user pain points, but sometimes we’re very bad in solving our own…
I believe the answer is on team role and clarity, if we cannot be a superman, why not building a super-team? it’s way more easier, cheaper and faster then required everyone in product division to be a superman.
Product Objective and How-to
Now lets start talking about product division objective first, our objective is to build business [profitable] and user [pain points] solution using tech, in a scale-able manners. To achieve that, we need to define 3 parts: vision, strategy and execution.
Vision is what we want to achieve in the long time, its something big but reachable, it what makes people inspire to works, it what makes us join the movement. Example, “We want to be the payment platform that provide financial inclusivity to people, and we won’t stop until everyone have the same opportunity to have a good life”. The output of the vision is the final products
Strategy is about how we achieve that vision, what journey we decide to take. Strategy is a game of option, what make us achieve our vision is not just about the choice we make, but also the choice we decide to not take. If you take every choice, with limited resources, then you definitely will failed. If you try to become everything, then you’ll be nothing. Example, “To be the best of payment platform, we will connect to every bank exist in this country and provide the seamless solution in the market”
The output of strategy is product roadmap and milestone.
And the last one is execution, the most underrated pieces of product roles. Competition is infinite game, it’s not about beating competitor or be the number 1 in x years. In infinite game, the one who make the most small wins are the winner. In short, it is a consistency game, how to be the best of us in every game we take.
The output of execution is product backlog.
It’s a super-team game
In product division, we usually cluster product people in 3 part, just like other division, junior — middle — senior. To make it fancy, we give tittle for its role, Product Owner for junior level, Product Manager for middle level and Product Lead / Head for senior level.
To build a super-team, we need to separates the role so everyone can contributed to the success of the team, and no one get burn out. And also because this is a part of an infinite game, everyone need a room for learning [or re-learning], so no one get bored along the way.
Product Owner — the man who make things happen
Product Owner responsibility is to define a clear and detail backlog. More detail are better. They need to put all his mind in user and other division shoes to cover all of the blind spot. In simple, product are not finished when it’s done build with no bug whatsoever, but also:
- User pain points are solved
- Business metrics are achieved
- The data can be tracked, so we know what to improve
- The potential user complain can be solved
The room to learn is on strategic thinking, they need to start learning the business context and way to go to get the vision. This is an important pieces for them to move up to be a Product Manager in the future
Product Manager — the man who build the bridge
Product Manager is the man behind the wheel, they got instructions from management team to move the car from point A and B, so they pick the shortest, effective and safe route to get there. Meanwhile they also need to lead the mechanics on what car they need to build, specific on the route they choose to point B.
They are the bridge from the vision into reality, Product Manager need to ensure for every products the team build have a strong foundations, so every time they add new products in their milestone, they not keep build the stairs, they just adding a new step.
The room to learn is on the corporate strategy, they should give feedback to management team whats possible and whats not, meanwhile they also need to learn on every aspects in building vision — regulation, HR things, finance etc. This is an important pieces for them to step up to Product Lead/ Head.
Product Lead — the man who create the rainbow dreams
Product Lead is the man standing in the finish line. His mind are not in present, but in the future. They’re thinking about what in the next 1–3 years, not in the next months. They inspire team to chasing the dreams, while give nurture and direction, they share their experience and growing all the team behind him. They talk the big things!
Rather than room to learn, its more important for them to re-learn things. In tech industry, things are moving so fast and most likely, things are not the same anymore when they are Product Owner or Manager. The tech stack are already get way more bigger, things that easy to build yesterday, maybe hard tomorrow. The team dynamic were more complex, handling 100k user complain in month are totally different with handling 50 user complain, Customer Service team are a big team now, and they demand a lot! More tools, more dashboard and more tech are needed to give better customer service.
This is an important pieces for them to building product vision, they need to know where they stand first before thinking on how to jump. They’re smoking a really good shit, and that shit is should be something call reality… and not fantasy.
Better team, less headache
As a products, our eyes is always on our customer. What they want, what is their pain points, what product they need to the level they want to spend this X amount. We invest a lot lot lot of time and money and energy for them!
And sometimes we forget to spend the same amount of our team, to nurture, to grow and to learn. It takes time and investment for each of us as person to grow, and it takes a whole lot for us to grow as a team. If you spend a good amount of investment now to the team, you may avoid a lot of scale-ability issue in the future. Adding new people in the organization sometimes is not always an answer, and its expensive as well.
So the verdict, go invest to the people, and I’m sure you will get less headache in the future. Definitely time and money worthwhile spend, seeing every person growing day by day is such a happiness :)