Learn what sets successful product management teams apart
Today we are talking about a recent study that gives us insights into what’s going on in product management and product management teams.
For several years, our guest has conducted the Study of Product Team Performance. The one for this year was rather different as it reflected on the impact of the COVID Pandemic, which we’ll get into in just a moment.
Returning with us is Greg Geracie the CEO of Actuation Consulting, a global provider of product management training, consulting, and advisory services to some of the world’s most well-known organizations. I’ve known Greg for several years, as we both volunteer with PDMA, the Product Development and Management Association.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:08] What is the purpose of the Study of Product Team Performance and how was it different this year?
The study researches the factors that differentiate successful product teams from the rest of the pack. This year, we focused on the impact of COVID-19 on the performance of product teams. Our goal was to capture what we’ve learned from the pandemic and help our clients and followers better understand its impact on product team performance, so they can make better-informed decisions in the future.
[3:45] What types of companies and industries participated in the study?
Companies of all shapes and sizes from around the world participate in our research. For this study:
- 49% of survey respondents work in the technology industry
- 22% in the services industry
- 13% in consumer products
- 4% in education
- 1% in government
- 11% in other industries
The revenue of survey respondents varied:
- 35% of our respondents worked for companies with revenue less than $50 million
- 37% worked for companies with revenue between $50 million and $2 billion
- 28% worked for companies with revenue over $2 billion
Additionally, over 55% of our respondents were product managers, which was a larger percentage than in the past.
[5:54] What highlights would you like to share about the study?
[5:54] Remote-first mindset
We discovered four key findings. First, survey respondents espoused a remote-first mindset. They believed their organization should be designed with a remote-first mentality and operating structure. Respondents described their organizations as rigid and against remote work, but during the pandemic they saw how working from home could be highly effective. They saw that COVID had changed the mentality of organizations in a way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, and the lesson many people learned is that organizations need to perpetually experiment with remote technology and collaboration tools before a pandemic or other event forces change.
Remote working does not extend equally to all industries. Education, academics, and financial services lead the way in transitioning to remote work, while food service, retail, and construction were the lowest adopters.
Respondents shared challenges that come with remote working. Internet connectivity was a problem for many. Process documentation and onboarding of new employees were challenges. Feelings of alienation and perceived lack of empathy from executives contributed to reduced productivity. Nineteen percent of employees struggled with being effective while working remotely, and many dealt with the loss of family members from COVID. Organizations need to keep in mind the impact of the pandemic on their employees at a personal level.
[10:03] Importance of strategy
Organizations with a clear view of their strategy found it easier to successfully pivot during the pandemic. In every study, we’ve found that strategy correlates with higher performance on product teams. This year, organizations were pivoting their business strategy, not just their product strategy. Surprisingly, respondents were very upbeat and positive. One respondent shared, “Extraordinary situations are extraordinary opportunities.” Many organizations reprioritized their investments, shored up their strategy, and emphasized virtual products and passive income streams.
[12:43] Planning for future adverse events
There’s a heightened awareness of future disruptive events, and many respondents believe their organizations failed to effectively plan for adverse events, and they want to see this corrected. Respondents anticipate future crises and welcome more planning in advance of the next crisis. Specifically, they would like to see business continuity plans, increased contingency and scenario planning, and the development of special teams to deal with future crises more effectively.
[14:21] Flexible culture necessary to thrive
Respondents cited a need for a flexible, agile, entrepreneurial mindset. The status quo has been upended, and we need to be flexible in order to thrive in this environment. Respondents pointed out that organizations need to evaluate which organizational activities should cease. One employee said, “Everything plus more is not a strategy nor is it sustainable.” During the pandemic, many organizations started new activities but did not stop old activities, and that made them inefficient and stressed. There’s only so much employees can handle, so organizations need to remove activities as they add new activities.
[17:21] What role do you think remote work will play in the future?
The majority of survey respondents would prefer to work from home indefinitely, but I think most employees will end up in a hybrid environment in the future, working from home two or three days a week and working in the office two or three days a week. In the study, we learned that customer engagement and discovery were the areas of product management most impacted by remote work. Forty percent of survey respondents cited those areas as the biggest current challenge in product development.
[22:01] What are some tips for thriving in a remote work or hybrid environment?
These tips come from Nick DiLisi, CEO of eMoneyAdvisor.
- Change your default meeting time from one hour to 45 minutes to enable breaks and relieve mental exhaustion, particularly between online meetings.
- Be patient with employees working from home with families.
- Record meetings for those unable to attend so everyone is on the same page.
- Don’t forget to say thank you—send thoughtful gifts to employees, appreciate their extra efforts, and express empathy for what they’re going through.
Action Guide: Put the information Greg shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Check out Greg’s website, ActuationConsulting.com
- Download the latest Study of Product Team Performance for free
“Crisis is the great revealer.” – Simon Sinek
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator 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.