In this chapter, I have transcribed the Summing up sections of all chapters in order to create a quick reference guide on all topics discussed in this book.
I started the book by establishing some definitions, reviewing basic concepts like product and product management, and introducing new concepts like product head roles and responsibilities, team structure, career and Y career for product managers.
What is digital product and product management
- Digital product is any software that has users.
- Digital products can exist both in digital companies, where the digital product is the product that the company sells, and in traditional companies, which use the digital product to leverage and leverage the company’s main product .
- Recently, traditional digital-born companies started to appear, that is, companies that sell a non-digital product, but that have the digital product as a critical part of their strategy since the beginning of the company.
- Platforms are products that deliver more value the more users use the platform, the famous network effect. There are single-sided platforms and multi-sided platforms, which can be exchange, content or techniques.
- Product management is the function responsible for connecting the company’s strategic objectives with the customers’ problems and needs.
Roles, responsibility and seniority
- The head of product is responsible for coordinating the definition of the product vision and strategy, for helping product managers in their development and for managing the expectations of all people who have interest in your product.
- A very important concept to help a product head with its responsibilities is the concept of seniority, which has 3 dimensions, two well known, time and knowledge and a third not so known, but just as important as others, behavioural seniority.
Product management career
- The product career has progressed from Associate Product Manager (APM) to Product Manager (PM) to Group Product Manager (GPM) to Chief Product Officer (CPO). There are some variations of nomenclature depending on the company and the country, but in general it follows this progression. The important thing is that this structure and career progression are clear for the entire company.
- When talking about the most senior product leadership in a company, there are two options with their pros and cons. One option is the unique leadership of the entire product development team (PM, UX and engineering), which works well for larger teams, but can be overwhelming when teams of more than 100 people. The advantage is having the entire team aligned with a single leadership. The other option is shared leadership with CPO and CTO, which avoids overload in large teams, but can cause a decrease in collaboration if there is no good harmony between these two or more leaders.
- For PMs who do not want to pursue a management career, it is important to give the Y career option, with the role of Principal Product Manager, which helps in integrating and synchronizing the work of the different teams.
- Despite being only 10% of a product leader’s time, defining product vision is his most important responsibility. Without it all the product development work is much more difficult.
- The product vision is nothing more than an understanding of what your product will look like in the future.
- To make the product vision it is necessary to be clear about the company’s objectives with the product, as well as to deeply understand the problems and needs that customers have and that will be solved by the product.
- The 6 steps to build a product vision are: obtain strategic objectives of the company, gain understanding of the problems and needs of customers, design the first version of the vision, iterate and refine, communicate and review.
Strategy and objectives
- Product strategy is nothing more than the path you will take to reach your product vision.
- To create your product strategy you need to have a good understanding of your market, that is, the competitors, the potential and accessible market, the growth of this market, if there are disruptors and how that market is regulated.
- Use SWOT analysis to help define what points you will work on in your product strategy.
- Use OKRs to help define your strategy goals and metrics that will tell you if you are on the right track.
- Review at least annually, or when there are relevant events in the market, your strategy and your product vision. The market changes, your product evolves, so your product vision and strategy must also evolve. OKRs must be reviewed quarterly.
- Product development teams are organized into minimal teams, also called squads, composed of engineers, product designers and product managers. It is important to keep these teams as lean as possible to help your productivity. These minimum teams are grouped into product teams called product tribes.
- There are 4 ways to organize product teams: by product or functionality, by type of user, by journey or by objective. It is also possible to use two different types of organization, creating a hybrid organization.
- There are also the structural tribes, which create the necessary structure for the product tribes to perform. Teams that make up the structural tribes are SRE / DevOps, Data, Architecture / Tools / Foundation, Design Ops, Information Security, Internal Systems, Sales Engineering and Professional Services.
- The implementation of the designed team organization can be done either by creating a new structure or by adjusting an existing team. In both situations it is important to know the product vision and strategy well to design and implement a team structure aligned with it.
- The most suitable ratio between people in engineering and product managers is 7 +/- 2 engineers for each product manager. And a product designer for each product manager.
- Two important concepts in the design of their team structure are the Conway’s Law, which says that organizations tend to create systems that are a copy of the companies’ communication structure, and the 4 stages of Tuckman of team formation, forming, confronting, standardizing and performing.
- It is also possible to organize product teams by business units that have other functions besides those included in a product development team, such as marketing, sales and customer service. The motivations for creating business units instead of product teams may be due to the acquisition, or to give more agility to the new business or even because it is a new product line completely different from the original product.
- What makes a group of people behave as a team are the common goals.
Developing the team and managing expectations
- To develop your team and manage expectations, the product head must have the 7 characteristics of a good product manager: empathy, communication, time management, new technologies, business skills, keen curiosity and product theme.
- Three of these features are essential for a head of product. Empathy to understand where expectations come from and what elements need to be developed in your team. Communication to be able to understand and make yourself understood when you are talking to the people of the company to manage your expectations and when you are developing your team. Business skills that will help you understand company goals that are important components of people’s expectations of the product.
- Anti-patterns are common but ineffective responses to problem solving. There are many well-documented anti-patterns in the world of digital product development. The 4 most common anti-patterns in product development leadership are documentation, focus on data, big rewriting and wish list.
- Documentation, which should be kept to a minimum, for certain leaders is even more important than the product itself. Nothing can go into production if it is not properly documented.
- Focus on data is when any and all decisions have to be made with data, without taking into account qualitative information, previous experience and intuition.
- Big rewrite happens when a new head of product finds a system written some time ago and identifies that it will be better to rewrite a new system from scratch than to improve the current one.
- Wishlist comes from the need for the new head of product to please all stakeholders, focusing on the product development team to only implement what is requested, delegating prioritization to other areas of the company.
Here we saw my personal leadership principles:
- People: priority # 1, always.
- Leading is like being a doctor.
- Leading under pressure.
- Mentoring is a two-way street.
- How and when to delegate.
We also saw what corporate culture is, a set of ways to solve problems and react to the situation shared by a group of people working together. Finally, we saw four values that are the core of the entire digital product development team. They make up the product culture, which is nothing more than the set of behaviors of the digital product development teams that produce the best results:
- Release early and often.
- Focus on the problem.
- Result delivery.
- Ecosystem mentality.
People: priority #1, always
- People are, and should always be, the number 1 priority of any company. We spend money and energy to acquire and retain the best people. Having people as number one priority is the key to achieving any other goal. This does not mean being “nice”, giving everything they want, but that we must be able to balance the challenges we give people so that they can improve continuously.
- Bad apples can drain and damage your team. You must help these people to fit into your team, and if that is not possible, you must make the most difficult decision: get them out of the team.
Leading is like being a doctor
- The next time you are on a team, either as part of it or playing the role of leading the team, think of the doctor’s leadership role and teamwork similar to the body’s healing process. It helps to understand the roles and responsibilities of the leader and the people on the team.
Leading under pressure
- There is no work without pressure environment. People and teams need external pressure (the goal, the expected date, the lack of resources) and also from within (motivation, drive, inner strength) to exist and do things, like a balloon.
- The internal pressure and the external pressure need to be balanced with some tendency to have a little more pressure on the outside to have continuous improvement.
- Under pressure, a person and a team explode or become stronger. It is the leader’s role to help the person or team to realize this and work together with them to support increased internal pressure.
Mentorship is a two-way street
- Mentoring is one of the most important roles for a product head. It is through mentoring that a head of products helps his team to develop.
- Mentoring is a two-way street. The person in the role of mentor should be open to new learning from his mentoring sessions with his mentor.
How and when to delegate
- Delegating is the act of entrusting someone with a task and / or responsibility. Leadership is an ongoing act of delegating tasks and responsibilities.
- Between not delegating and delegating there are several levels of delegation that are used according to the context, that is, the problem to be solved and who will be working on the problem.
- The concept of delegation goes hand in hand with the concept of micromanagement, a management style in which the manager closely observes or controls the work of his subordinates or employees.
- There are different ways of doing things to achieve the same result. New leaders often think that only their way of doing things is right.
- Mistakes are incredible learning opportunities. Hence the importance of tolerating mistakes at work.
Culture and values
- Culture is the way a group of people respond to everyday situations. It is the role of the head of product to assist in the design and promotion of the company’s culture to ensure an environment conducive to the development of successful products.
- It has five values that I believe are essential to help create a culture that enables the development of successful products. In this chapter I spoke about 3 of those values: don’t waste time looking for the culprits, focus on learning. Don’t compare work situations with war, nobody wants to kill anyone. Profit and revenue are a consequence, it should not be the main focus.
Transparency, the foundation of a high performance team
- Every leader, to help her team perform better, needs to explain the context and remove impediments.
- In order to explain the context, it is essential to be transparent, explain the company numbers, explain the motivations behind each decision, include the team in the decisions.
- Transparency in the management of companies seems modern, but it has existed for some decades. Two interesting examples come from the 1980s. One at an American company called Springfield ReManufacturing Corp (SRC), which created the concept of open book management. The other in a Brazilian company called Semco, by Ricardo Semler, where Clóvis Bojikian, its HR director, implemented participatory management. Both are from the 1980s and are industries, that is, the vanguard of participatory management.
- With transparency, it is possible to give people the necessary information so that they understand the context and motivation of the work they are doing and are able to make better decisions about that work.
Diversity, the basis of the best products
- There are two main reasons that motivate the construction of different digital product development teams. The first is that diversity brings new points of view. The second reason is that just as the group of customers using your product is diverse, so should your product development team.
- People have different backgrounds, different stories, different knowledge. We must recognize and respect these differences and understand that sometimes we will not reach an agreement, but that’s okay, as long as we respect each other’s perspective.
- It is in our hands to make the digital product development environment more inclusive. The way for this to happen is to bring up the topic and make it part of the conversations.
Release early and often
- There is a set of four values that are in fact the core of every digital product development team. These are the values that make up the product culture, which is nothing more than the set of behaviors of the digital product development teams that produce the best results.
- The three reasons for you to launch your product soon are that (i) this is the moment of truth, (ii) so you avoid the excess of features and (iii) accelerate the return of the investment.
- If you are not ashamed of your first version, it took too long to launch.
- Minimal Marketable Feature or MMF is a concept prior to that of MVP, which has the advantage of bringing this mentality of implementing the minimum necessary for each product functionality.
Focus on the problem
- A very important step in creating a good solution is understanding the problem. When we hear about a problem, we immediately start thinking about solutions. However, the more time we spend learning about the problem, the easier it will be to find a solution and chances are good that this solution will be simpler and faster to implement than the first solution we thought of.
- If you have a list of projects to do, create two more columns in that list, one for problems to be solved in each project and another for whom the problems will be solved. This will help you to focus on the problems to be solved, not the projects, which are the solution.
- Solution implementation teams are teams working on implementing a solution designed by someone else. Problem solving teams are teams that work to deeply understand the causes of the problem, the context and the motivation that people have to solve it. In doing so, they are able to implement the best solution for the problem at hand.
- The top-down trap is the perception of the decision-making process being made by the leaders of the company, with no opportunity for the rest of the employees to participate. This perception is exacerbated when a company faces increasing pressure, such as the COVID-19 crisis.
- People are solution-oriented, and the greater the pressure, the faster people want solutions to be implemented.
- To help deal with this situation, use empathy to understand the requestor’s view of implementing the solution and ask him why it is necessary to implement the requested solution.
- Heads of product have the role and responsibility to promote these behavioral changes to help build a more collaborative decision-making process.
- Another fundamental value for any product development team is the focus on delivering results.
- Care must be taken when defining the result. Delivering functionality is not a result. All functionality is a means that serves an end, the achievement of a business objective.
- Even 100% digital companies, whose digital product and technology are the company’s core, focus on business objectives.
- Ecosystem mindset means making decisions that create value for all actors on a platform.
- At Gympass, during the COVID-19 crisis, after placing Gympass Wellness for all its customers and their employees, an important part of the ecosystem was still suffering, the gyms. It was the ecosystem mentality that guided Gympass to create the Live Classes product, which allowed gyms to continue operating even though they were behind closed doors.
Here we saw the tools that I have used in my almost 30 years of leadership in product development leadership and that I have shared with other leaders so that they can use with their teams. The tools I will talk about include vision, strategy, goals, team structure, metrics, relationships and ceremonies.
Vision, strategy, objectives and team structure
- Vision, strategy, objectives and team structure are, in addition to very important concepts, essential tools for any product head.
- For vision and strategy, a presentation with a few slides is sufficient. For OKR and team structure, spreadsheets do the trick.
- More important than the software you use to document Vision, strategy, goals and team structure is what you do with these tools. OKR worksheet I use at least every week. Vision and strategy, whenever I have the opportunity, I talk about these topics. Team structure, whenever we talk about hiring or changes in the team, I use the team structure worksheet.
Measuring and managing productivity
- There is no silver bullet to increase the productivity of a product development team. However, there are two essential tools to help achieve this goal.
- The first tool is measurement. There is no way to improve something that is not measured. What is product development speed? It is important to have a clear definition of this metric and consequent measurement.
- The second tool is to bring the topic of productivity to the center of the discussion. Everyone on the product development team is responsible for the team’s productivity. Therefore, by bringing the topic to the center of the discussion, everyone will be able to collaborate to improve productivity.
Measuring and managing quality
- Questioning whether or not product development should have a dedicated QA team is not the right question.
- The problem you are trying to solve is how to improve the quality of your product.
- A good quality proxy metric is the bugs. Bug inventory, new bugs per week and bug resolution SLA.
- A product development team must have all its members following these metrics and taking action to improve them.
- Managing bugs is not enough to manage the quality of the digital product. Performance, scalability, operability, monitorability are some examples of non-functional requirements that directly impact the quality of the digital product.
- Quality is at the forefront to provide a good user experience. In addition, it is essential to increase the speed of your product development team. The less bugs a team has to fix, the more time it has to focus on new things.
- High-speed organizations are able to learn very quickly, especially with their failures, and to absorb that learning as an integral part of the organization’s knowledge.
- The metrics of a product development team can be classified into 3 major categories: internal, user and business.
- Internal metrics show how the team is in health. User metrics show the relationship of its user with the product. Business metrics are those that show whether the product is, in fact, delivering value to the business.
- Metrics should be monitored as often as possible, at least weekly. Even if it is a monthly metric, try to follow the weekly, or even daily, partials of this metric, to give greater opportunity to act earlier when there is a course variation.
- Expectation management is anywhere from 50 to 80% of a product head’s time.
- RASCI is a very useful tool to help define and understand the roles and responsibilities of each person and function.
- The power-interest matrix, together with RASCI, is a great tool to help you better understand and interact with your stakeholders.
- But don’t forget, the main tool that a product head needs to understand better and, consequently, have improved and fruitful interactions with its stakeholders is empathy.
Hire the right people
- The work of hiring people must be done in conjunction with HR. It’s team work.
- The hiring phases are defining the profile, attracting candidates, interviewing, choosing and making the proposal, onboarding.
- The life cycle of a person on your team does not end with onboarding. It is important to constantly give and receive feedback from her, to ensure that the relationship works well for both the team and the new person on the team.
- Finally, the last phase of the person’s life cycle on the team is when the person leaves the team. It is necessary to understand the reasons that led to this decision to understand how these themes can be worked on in the future.
Feedback and performance evaluation
- Six essential aspects for good feedback are: checking if feedback is necessary, giving it when it happens, being objective, being transparent, empathizing and giving feedback in private.
- The seven main characteristics of a good product manager are empathy, communication, time management skills, knowledge of new technologies, business skills, keen curiosity and knowledge about the product theme.
- If the product is not a technical product, it is not necessary to know how to program. However, having some sense of programming can be useful in understanding how your product works. Knowing SQL is also useful, as it will help the product manager to better understand the metrics of their product.
- Formal performance appraisal processes have been increasingly seen by companies as something that does not bring as many benefits as expected. Several companies are replacing this process with more frequent conversations between leaders and followers about career, performance, potential and values.
- Semi-annual retrospective is a good way to have a structured conversation with the team member about the results achieved and how they were achieved, and about the challenges to come. This retrospective must be built together with the team member. If there is a formal performance appraisal process in the company where you are working, use the retrospective process to create the performance appraisal.
- Regarding promotions and salary increases, there are two aspects to consider, when and how. I recommend separating salary increase and promotion conversations from the feedback conversations to maintain full focus on the topic of each of these conversations. I also recommend promoting the person when he has the potential to develop the skills necessary to occupy the next career level, and not expect him to already demonstrate the skills necessary for that next career level, as this will motivate the person more.
- These ceremonies with different stakeholders are aimed at planning, alignment and expectation management. I emphasize that this list is not definitive, that is, depending on the company and the context, it may be interesting to create others and some of the ceremonies listed here may not be necessary.
- 1:1 meetings are important to maintain alignment and communication with your followers, your leaders, other team members and people from other areas. 1:1 with your team members and your leader should be weekly and have an hour of conversation set aside. The 1:1 with other people may have a shorter periodicity and duration, or even be occasional. The topic of these meetings is free, and should not be limited to accountability. They involve personal issues, day to day, concerns, feedbacks, retrospectives.
- Leadership team meetings are the meetings that the product head has with its direct followers. In addition to direct team members, it is important to have the HR person who is dedicated to helping your team. The topic is free, but it is important to periodically discuss OKRs and communication dynamics with the rest of the company. At least weekly. They can happen more than once a week, even daily if there are many topics to be discussed.
- All-Hands are meetings with the entire product development team where the achievements are celebrated and the lessons learned are shared. The recommendation is that they are monthly.
- Product Council are the meetings where the planning of the next quarter is presented to the senior leadership of the company, preferably in the format of OKRs. They are usually quarterly.
- Product Updates are used to remove the black box effect from product and technology teams. That’s when the leaders of this team present what was done in the last month, what will be done in the next month, how these deliveries impact the company’s results, demonstrations of features and openness for anyone to ask what they want for the team.
- Team structure meeting serves to discuss with the leadership of the product development team how the team will be organized, how we will use the hiring budget and what the hiring priority is.
Digital Product Management Books
Do you work with digital products? Do you want to know more about how to manage a digital product to increase its chances of success, solve its user’s problems and achieve the company objectives? Check out my Digital Product Management bundle with my 3 books where I share what I learned during my almost 30 years of experience in creating and managing digital products:
- Startup Guide: How startups and established companies can create profitable digital products
- Product Management: How to increase the chances of success of your digital product
- Leading Product Development: The art and science of managing product teams