Product Management Culture: How to Build a Product-Driven Team

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Product Management Culture: How to Build a Product-Driven Team
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Table of Contents
  • Introducing Ron Zionpour and Monday.com
  • Why is the product management culture important?
    • 1. Building an impact-driven organization
    • 2. Bridging the communication gap between the engineering team and the users
    • 3. Promoting effective collaboration among different teams
    • 4. Maximizing resources
  • How to build a team of Product Owners
    • 1. Introduce the product management culture when onboarding new team members
    • 2. Conduct user interviews with your team
    • 3. Review full story sessions with the team
    • 4. Improve your team’s efficiency
  • How to introduce the product management culture in your organization
    • 1. Focus on closing the culture gap
    • 2. Introduce the product management culture strategically
    • 3. Avoid adopting limiting job descriptions
    • 4. Redefine the Product Manager’s role
    • 5. Acknowledge the teams’ impact occasionally
  • How to measure and improve your product’s impact
    • 1. Monitor your product metrics
    • 2. Collect and review feedback on your product consistently
  • Final thoughts on product management culture and building a product-driven team

In most organizations, product and engineering teams collaborate to build and deploy great products.

The Product Manager or Product Owner conveys the users’ needs as specifications to the engineering team, and the engineering team then converts these specifications into products. Each team plays an important role in the process, and this functional division of labor often produces good results.

However, if you’re looking to build products that will be impactful, all teams involved in the product-building process must share a common understanding of the users’ problems and needs, as well as joint responsibility for meeting those needs. This requires less division of labor and more of a product management culture.

If you’re wondering how to make your organization or team more product-centric, you’re in luck. On our Tech Leaders Hub series, we recently interviewed Ron Zionpour, the Research and Development (R&D) Group Lead at Monday.com. Ron highlighted the importance of having a product management culture in your organization and shared his advice on building a team with the product management culture.

Keep reading to learn practical ways of implementing the product ownership culture in your organization to make sure everyone on your team is a Product Owner!

Introducing Ron Zionpour and Monday.com

Ron Zionpour acquired a BSc in Computer Science about 12 years ago. He started his career as a junior software engineer in one of Israel’s largest corporations and discovered that he preferred the startup culture to big corporations.

Hence, he took up a new role at Innovid, where he spent eight years taking up several roles, from becoming a junior team lead about two years after joining Innovid to leading a DevOps team and rising to Vice President of Engineering before he left.

After leaving Innovid, Ron joined Monday.com as their Research and Development Group Lead. Being the R&D Group Lead, Ron is responsible for one of the company’s latest products.

Monday.com is a multi-product company with a platform that allows teams to manage tasks efficiently and work toward goals faster. The platform features several tools to help your team organize and execute tasks with maximum productivity.

The following article covers our discussion with Ron extensively. However, you can also watch the full interview via the link below if you prefer:

 

Why is the product management culture important?

Undoubtedly, great products have been created with the standard role-based product development method. So if you’re wondering why you need to implement the product management culture in your organization, here are some reasons why that’s a good idea:

1. Building an impact-driven organization

According to Ron, “Most organizations desire to be impact-driven, but few understand what this entails.” For instance, you may be steering your team to work toward a specific goal, key performance indicator (KPI), or metric—but have you ever stopped to consider what each team member contributes toward the organization’s goal of being impact-driven? How often did each team member make decisions that directly contributed to that impact?

If each team member feels responsible for the company’s products, they will be better positioned to help the company become impact-driven.

2. Bridging the communication gap between the engineering team and the users

It’s definitely easier to make the Product Manager responsible for the product, have them share specifications with the engineering team, and review the product after development. However, this may create a communication gap between your organization and the users, which puts the engineering team farther from what they created. Without the Product Manager, they may not be able to deliver value to your users.

Building a team of Product Owners will ensure that your team is not only impact-driven but also deeply concerned about what the users think about their product. This way, they can build and scale the product to have the most impact on its users.

3. Promoting effective collaboration among different teams

Implementing the product management culture in your organization will reduce the communication gap between product management, engineering, product design, and other teams involved in the process.

In addition, it creates a common language between those teams that involves focusing on the user’s needs, making it easier for them to collaborate to build impactful products. There will also be less tension, and your team will work cordially and in a fun environment.

4. Maximizing resources

The product management culture will help you maximize resources if you have a small team. As Ron puts it, “Everyone can take up the Product Manager role and be classified as builders building the product.”

Hence, you don’t need to hire for all roles if you can’t afford to, as everyone will contribute equally to ensure that the product meets the company’s goals and KPIs. Also, the product management culture will inform how, when, and what to build with the available resources.

How to build a team of Product Owners

If you want to enjoy the benefits of adopting the product management culture in your organization, you need to build a team of Product Owners. Here are some tips from Ron to help you get started:

1. Introduce the product management culture when onboarding new team members

Ron recommends introducing the product management culture to new members when onboarding them. Instead of giving new team members tasks specific to their skills, you can introduce them to the Product Owner’s mindset by giving them end-to-end ownership over that specific task.

It would be best if you showed new team members that your team adopts the Product Owner culture from their first task and continues to do so with subsequent tasks.

New members may possess great technical skills, but their understanding of the product is more important. If they don’t begin by understanding the product metrics, they won’t be able to know if the product is delivering value or not.

2. Conduct user interviews with your team

Ron advises ensuring that the engineering team and other teams not typically responsible for handling user interviews also conduct them. It does not have to be a verbal or direct user interview. You can set out specific days to invite users over and get them to use the product while the team observes and takes note of areas requiring improvement.

3. Review full story sessions with the team

Full story sessions are recordings of specific user sessions within the product. You can introduce the product management culture to your team by getting them to watch full story sessions, mainly focusing on recently added product features.

This way, they’ll understand how the users view the features and how they can improve the product to create more impact on the users.

4. Improve your team’s efficiency

Conducting user interviews, reading feedback, and watching full story sessions may seem like a full-time job, but it should not be. Instead, Ron recommends dedicating a few hours a week to all of that, as your team still needs to get on with their technical responsibilities.

You can, however, maximize your time if you focus on improving efficiency in other areas. Here are some ways to improve your team’s efficiency while building impact-driven products:

Build a data-driven team

Ron advises developing data lakes internally to measure the features within the product and ensure that everyone in the team can slice and dice the data to get any required information. This way, you won’t spend too much time trying to understand the impact of specific things on users and how they use the new features.

Measure everything

Keeping track of everything will help your team perform more efficiently. According to Ron, “You need to create dashboards for everything and add widgets to the dashboards that are relevant for that specific feature.” By doing so, your team can work more independently while still being product-centric.

How to introduce the product management culture in your organization

If you join a new organization or work with a company that does not adopt the product management culture, you’ll need to find a suitable way to pitch the product management culture to them. If you’re in this situation, here are some tips to try out:

1. Focus on closing the culture gap

Not everyone will easily fit into the product-centric culture, but some people may already be exhibiting traits of the product management culture. Hence, it would be best if you focused on closing the gap between people who already adopt the Product Owner mindset and those who don’t.

2. Introduce the product management culture strategically

Don’t make immediate decisions like scrapping roles that you believe are not product-centric. Instead, you can keep the roles but focus on creating a common language across the teams. You can also start making small changes toward reaching a specific goal and implement them for subsequent goals.

3. Avoid adopting limiting job descriptions

Your organization might have drawn up charts with detailed descriptions of each team member’s roles and responsibilities as well as the chain of command. However, this may limit the adoption of the Product Manager culture by your teams, making people in non-product teams feel they are not responsible for the product.

Ron recommends getting everyone involved in the product-building process and allowing everyone to take responsibility for what’s happening rather than adopting such narrow job descriptions.

4. Redefine the Product Manager’s role

Ron also advises redefining the Product Manager’s role within the context of the product management culture. For example, nothing in the Product Manager’s job description should imply that the Product Manager is the only person responsible for drawing up product specifications, reviewing the users’ feedback, and thinking about opportunities. Instead, define how you’ll like them to act as a member of the builders’ team.

5. Acknowledge the teams’ impact occasionally

Acknowledging the team members’ impact can help create a product-centric culture. You can recognize team members with good practices that improve a product’s performance by sharing good feedback received because of each team member’s contribution. This way, team members get to see the immediate impact of what they do on users.

However, the kind of behavior you highlight as worthy of praise also matters. For instance, if you focus on engineering skills, you’re going to get more of that from your team. But if you focus on the impact, it will encourage more of that.

How to measure and improve your product’s impact

According to Ron, “You cannot create impact if you don’t measure impact.” If you want to build an impact-driven organization, knowing the impact of specific product features is a good place to start. If you’re wondering how to measure and improve your product’s impact, here are some tips that may help:

1. Monitor your product metrics

Keeping track of product metrics such as satisfaction rate, churn rates, and bounce rate, even for specific features, is a solid way to understand the impact of your product features. If the metrics have been poor for a certain period of time, you can fix that and improve the impact.

2. Collect and review feedback on your product consistently

Encourage your users to submit feedback on specific features recently introduced to the product. This way, you can tell what isn’t working for your users and improve it quickly.

Most companies connect feedback to CRM systems so the customer success team can read them and open bugs for the ones that need to be fixed. However, Ron recommends connecting everyone within the team to keep them visible to your team and see the immediate impact. In his words, “Your team members will understand that there are users that use the product.”

Final thoughts on product management culture and building a product-driven team

Generally speaking, people are hired for their technical skills. However, every organization expects employees to use their technical skills to help the company achieve their goals.

The company goals rarely involve the best engineering or product management practices or the latest techniques. Instead, most organizations expect you to build products that users will find valuable. Hence, your team must focus on delivering this result, and the fastest way to do so is to adopt the Product Owner culture.

Luckily, with the tips we’ve shared here, you’re one step closer to building a team of Product Owners.

Thank you for reading this article! We recommend you also check out the following helpful resources on our blog for building great products:

Also, we encourage you to subscribe to our Tech Leaders Hub newsletter for more great content from our experts. We’ll inform you of upcoming sessions as they are scheduled.

And if you’re looking to build your software product or improve any of your existing product features to deliver more value to your users, our seasoned specialists at STX Next are committed to helping our clients create some of the best software the world has seen in a product-centric way.

Having said that, feel free to reach out to us! We would love nothing more than to help your product create more impact in no time.

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