Product Management is fundamentally about serving the customer. By successfully meeting the needs of the customer, using the product as our vehicle, we can achieve a desired business outcome.
Implicit in this definition is the idea that Product Management is a strategic role, and there is certain amount of autonomy to determine what needs to be done, in order to achieve an outcome. Those objectives can be defined either in the form of objectives/OKRs, or KPIs.
The dysfunctional pattern some product organizations find themselves in, is when Product is not driven by outcomes and does not have autonomy to determine how to achieve those outcomes. Instead, there is a heavily negotiated product roadmap and Product Management is responsible for delivery on that roadmap. The reason this is sub-optimal is that Product has already committed to delivering a set of features, as defined by various stakeholder constituents, before doing the necessary discovery work to really know what customers will react to. Another name of this pattern is the ‘feature factory’. In this context, the role of a Product Manager is more aligned to a Scrum Product Owner than a product leader.
Benefits of Empowered Product Teams
Having an empowered product team carries many benefits to the company in the following ways;
Primarily, there are two types of motivation – Intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic motivation can be in monetary compensation, while intrinsic is driven mainly by each person’s desires and needs. The best type of motivation is Intrinsic.
Generally, intrinsic motivation leads to higher and more sustainable performance and overall team morale. If you are intrinsically motivated to work, you are accurately aligned to what you need and want.
Intrinsic motivation comes with three main pillars;
- Autonomy – this is wanting to make your own decisions.
- Mastery – this refers to becoming much better at what you do.
- Purpose – this refers to following high goals with what you do.
In the end, the intrinsic motivation will cause the team to become masters at what they do. For this reason, empowered teams end up having a high intrinsic motivation that leads to a more sustainable performance over time.
This is one of the main reasons why you need to have an empowered team in your company. The team is usually more concerned with solving the customer’s problems to serve the business needs ultimately.
Their objectives typically revolve around the customer. They have delivery teams tasked with putting the stakeholders prioritized at all times, and their primary concern is ensuring that they are happy.
These teams will solve all sorts of customer problems, and the only way forward is to empathize and understand the customers. They also involve them in the process of discovery and talk to them often to capture their issues.
This understanding of the problem and empathy for the customer leads the team towards a better opportunity to create a product with great attention to detail. In the end, an Empowered Product Team tends to be more customer-focused, and it is also more likely to realize the right and expected outcomes for the customers.
The development and Product discovery work should always aim to be iterative. This means that each iteration should lead to deciding whether to pursue the given path or opt for several other options that will deliver the desired results.
In an empowered team setup, the decisions are usually taken from within the team members. The delivery and features teams typically take the findings back to the stakeholders to sponsor the work.
Now, since the stakeholders are not steeped in the teams’ day-to-day work, the context must be built up first before any decisions can be made.
Most of the time, sprints of specified lengths are used to ensure that the stakeholders are in the loop and that they can make the decisions on a timely basis. Any new information can be uncovered on the sprint’s first day and many other days before the next meeting.
The empowered team, in this case, reacts to new information as soon as it surfaces, which increases their velocity and reactivity.
Technological companies usually create more value through solving their customer’s problems in the best ways possible that serve their businesses. Innovation occurs when new approaches and insights are discovered in different areas such as technology, business models, or understanding the customer.
These cross-functional teams typically bring in specialists in these areas to work together to discover new insights. For example, an engineer may be aware of new technology, while a developer may develop a new product for customers to solve their problems.
When they work together, through interdisciplinary cooperation, the team may unlock a new and valuable innovation.
The whole essence of having an empowered team is to ensure that the customer’s needs are met and their problems solved as soon as possible. This is a team whose primary goal of existence is one, and their main accomplishment is meeting this particular goal – customer satisfaction.
Empowered teams are therefore able to discover and develop innovations that are customer-centered and technology-enabled.