Mastering your Craft: Lessons learned in Product, but applicable everywhere!
By Brandon Madgwick, Consultant at Freethinking
“Alright stop, collaborate and listen”, Vanilla Ice
We talk a lot, but how often do we really listen to each other?
As a Product Manager or Product Owner, we tend to talk a lot. We must, as we need to convey the vision, the direction, set the priority of work to be done and then also provide feedback and progress updates to stakeholders.
Ultimately you are the voice of the team.
But the age-old principle of collaboration has tremendous application in today’s digital era. Teams must nurture an appreciation for collaboration, allowing team members the opportunity to express opinions and contribute to the product as well as the health of the team.
“All of us are smarter than any of us” is a saying we should all consider when talking in groups and looking for solutions.
Building confidence, building openness
When we collaborate as a team, we stimulate conversation and discussion. We listen more, and so we learn more. When we collaborate, we feel included, the team interaction is heightened, and colleagues are engaged and tend to open up more easily. Engaging with each other and interacting also builds confidence within the team and this helps to create the maturity a team needs to function in cohesion.
Many of us now work in Agile teams (or are on the journey of transforming to Agile teams). Today, digital product teams don’t operate in silos, but part of a bigger tribe. In order to keep that tribe functional and working at its optimal level, strong collaboration is essential.
By broadening the collaboration approach to include a team’s interaction with other teams in the tribe, everyone gets a shared understanding of each team’s priorities and statuses, knowing who their stakeholders are, and better understanding their mandate. This facilitates better, faster decision-making – and always for the benefit of the tribe.
Collaboration can take on many forms: Guild meetups, chapter meetings and structured regular catch-ups, but these should never be limited to once-off or sporadic occasions.
Get up and talk to your team or to other teams. Discussion is necessary and healthy, and you’ll be amazed at how much you will hear when you start listening more closely to those around you.
“When we collaborate, we feel included, the team interaction is heightened, and colleagues are engaged and tend to open up more easily.”
Great products come from great teams
In my experience, what makes a successful product manager is the team that she has beside her. It’s essential to have knowledgeable Technical Leads with the vision to stretch technology’s potential, a Design Lead with an innate understanding of the art that goes into truly appealing to customer needs, and a talented, versatile pool of developers, testers and analysts.
In great teams, each individual relies on everyone else for their shared success. For the Product Manager, the ‘secret sauce’ is often all about surrounding yourself with the right people and leveraging each other’s strengths.
By having the right people both within your own product team, and within the other teams in the tribe, the magic of collaboration becomes possible. Complex tasks and problems become simple to address and identify by having the relevant people and tools available.
For instance, a great data scientist can provide you with the data that validates the findings of the UX team through their customer engagement, which allows the Product Manager to make the correct decision to drop, change or enhance a feature on your product.