The key ingredients of a successful product management team
Today we are talking about how to build a great product team that in turn will build great products customers love.
Joining us is a returning guest, Vidya Dinamani. She’s a product executive, advisor, and coach. She has over 20 years of experience in product management, including multiple executive roles at leading companies such as Intuit. Vidya founded Product Rebels, which teaches people hands-on ways to become stronger, customer-focused product managers. She’s coached hundreds of companies from startups to Fortune 50 and loves seeing people and teams transform when they understand how to build products that customers love.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers[4:07] What are the characteristics of a good product team that is able to create great products for customers?
There are three essential characteristics. First is having a customer mindset. Great product teams all understand the customer. This requires top-down support and leadership to create a culture that values and prioritizes customer-centricity.
The second characteristic is an outcome focus. It’s important for product teams to prioritize delivering customer value and focus on outcomes rather than just outputs. Outcome-driven metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS) can help drive behavior and guide decision-making to move the needle.
The third characteristic is alignment. Alignment is the ability the understand the work the product team is doing in support of the business and product strategy. Great products teams are not just focused on the how; they also understand the what and the why. This alignment sets up the team for creativity, innovation, and a shared understanding of goals among team members.
[16:05] What practical tips can product managers use to build a better product team?
First, we need to assess the team’s mindset, competencies, and resources to identify any gaps and areas for improvement. For example, often the product team doesn’t have access to customer data, and that lack of resources is stopping the team from being a great product team. This evaluation helps us understand where we are currently strong and what steps we can take to enhance our team. Pick one area and dedicate resources and time to improving that one area.
A bonus for building a team is to think about the end-to-end experience. Great product managers should consider all the connective tissue and all the points. Everyone thinks about the end-to-end experience—not just the immediate team of developers and designers, but also the support system, including customer support, marketing, and sales teams. When we as a product team makes changes, it’s important to involve a group of people who can think about the end-to-end experience. Great product teams and customer-centered organizations naturally prioritize the end-to-end perspective
[25:17] Who should be part of a product team and what roles should they have?
The textbook core is the triad: the product manager, the designer, and the developer. This is often the ideal setup for SaaS and technical products, but let’s not forget that every industry is different, and it’s crucial to consider your goals and your customers. In my experience, I’ve even had customers who were so invested in our solution that they volunteered to be part of our team. They felt like it was their product, and their contribution was invaluable. It’s essential to define what you’re trying to achieve and identify the key stakeholders who should be part of the core team. It’s not limited to just the technical product team. Salespeople, account managers, and customer success representatives can all play a role, depending on your specific objectives. It’s about bringing together the right people to make the entire project successful. And in sectors like healthcare and FinTech, there’s often a larger group involved, even if they’re not directly coding or designing. They still bring their expertise and perspective, making them an integral part of the team. Think of it as creating a stakeholder map to ensure you have all the necessary players on board. By doing so, you’ll have the right people to achieve your goals and create a successful outcome.
[28:41] How do you measure team performance?
Many teams are overworked with a long backlog, and it never seems to end. There is a constant flow of work to be done, so a lot of time this is a prioritization problem. This is not a team problem; it is a leadership problem. The lack of clear direction and focus from the top is to blame. It’s important to make trade-offs because even the greatest team cannot excel in all areas. To address this, we should adopt a straightforward prioritization framework. Start by considering the inputs that truly matter, whether they are related to the business, customers, revenue targets, or retention goals. The leadership team must align on what is truly important. Then, it’s crucial to make decisions and establish a filter for the product team to assess each piece of work. This filter will provide some guidance and direction. Although it’s important to note that no matrix or spreadsheet can provide an answer, they can provide directional indications of what is more important. Sometimes, you’ll need to make tough trade-offs and choose which tasks to prioritize. While it’s not an easy task, there are frameworks and strategies available to facilitate conversations about trade-offs. Working in partnership and fostering open dialogue is key. By aligning on what’s important and jointly making decisions, the product team can focus on the work that truly matters. The issues lie in the overwhelming workload rather than shortcomings of the team. It’s difficult to make a meaningful impact and succeed in such an environment when there is simply too much to handle. I have yet to come across a team that can thrive under such circumstances.
Action Guide: Put the information Vidya shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Learn more about Product Rebels
- Check out Groundwork: Getting Better at Making Better Products
“There is no innovation and creativity without failure.” – Brené Brown
Thank you for taking the journey to product mastery and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.