If you work in or with a team or teams who build things, read on. In my experience as a product manager, consultant, and leader, these are five tried and tested tips for amplifying product management adoption. For those of you who read my previous blog and are wondering how to get product management into your organisation, consider the following “guerilla tactics” that might help lead the charge.
Gather user insight early and often
Dedicate sufficient energy to understanding the problem you’re trying to solve and ensuring that this understanding is shared across your team by involving them. Balancing qualitative and quantitative data with careful interpretation to capture user insight, early and often, throughout the product lifecycle, is one of the best ways to make sure you’re building the right thing.
Qualitative data are useful for gaining deep insights for example user attitudes, thoughts, and emotions. Research methods which enable observation and open questioning, such as focus groups are great for revealing reasons why certain actions are or aren’t taken (side note, focus groups are also an awesome driver of customer engagement.) Qualitative data often highlights important yet unexpected context or aspects which can drastically change the meaning of other data or the design of hypothesis tests. Quantitative data (e.g. funnel metrics, revenue, footfall, etc), can assist you and your team with testing hypotheses as well as comprehending the magnitude of a particular pain point, opportunity or need.
Quantitative data capture mechanisms can be cheaper and easier to access, especially when large volumes are concerned, however the value of the insight is limited by the scope and context of the measurement. The level of engagement you already have with your users and the availability of existing data will likely influence your approach.
Design around use cases
One thing I’ve learned while working with technology teams is to align tasks and stories to use cases. Use this approach to establish a common language that can be understood by anyone in the business, not just those people who are in technical roles. This also increases team autonomy as solutions aren’t prescriptive about how they are implemented, as long as the desired outcomes are achieved.
When you write stories around use cases rather than tasks or features, you dramatically improve transparency and shared understanding which contribute to better predictability and efficiency. It is worth noting that, just because stories and tasks may be written around use cases, doesn’t negate the need for technical design or documentation. These are frequently essential supplements that minimise the accumulation of technical debt, especially in complex technical landscapes or where teams are in a formative stage.
A user story is a promise for a conversation. Ideally get your team into the same room or synchronous digital environment, along with anyone on whom the team is dependent, and talk to each other. Many delays and misaligned expectations could be easily avoided, if not for lack of communication, poor communication or passively waiting for responses. Minimise the impact of these to your delivery ambitions by promoting rapid and effective communication between team members.
The most engaging form of communication is still face-to-face conversation (remember those?) however there are now excellent mechanisms that help optimise for a remote and hybrid world. If you’re not already familiar, check out the Remote Agility Framework1.
Trust your team
Trust is a vital catalyst in unlocking efficiencies. Increasing levels of trust may be evident in continuous improvement activities for example, improved quality or reduction in documentation overheads (no, that doesn’t mean don’t create any doco!) If you’re not sure where to start developing more trust within your team, I’d recommend picking up a copy of the book ‘Dare to Lead’ by Brené Brown2. Providing guard rails that safely delegate authority and show each individual that you trust them to act in the best interests of the customer and the organisation, fosters empowerment, autonomy, and motivation.
Many of the humans I’ve worked with are passionate about what they do and are most energised when they’re in a relaxed environment. Work is a big part of most people’s lives, and its impact can stretch far beyond the traditional 9-5 hours, especially now in our always-on world. Enjoying what you do and how you do it are important considerations, beyond just the ‘sausage factory’ procedures, projects, and processes we use to deliver value.
The most productive teams I have ever worked with have also been the most fun to work with (Nerf fight across the office, anyone!?) and that isn’t a coincidence.
Bonus Tip: find your unicorns
Perhaps you’re already practising some of the 5 tips shared here, to amplify collaboration and product management adoption, or you’ve managed to convince the powers that be to start exploring product management within your organisation. Perhaps it’s the right time to seek out the person or people to be your product professionals to really accelerate your journey. Finding such individuals, who have the right mix of appetite and aptitudes to take the product reins, isn’t always easy, but it’s worth the effort.
Read Part Three: If Product Management is good for business, why isn’t it everywhere?