What Does a Strong Product Team Look Like?
Strong product teams make or break a company in today’s fast-paced digital world. Companies that excel in product are able to have a leg-up on the competition. What makes a product team ‘strong’? I propose five characteristics of a highly-effective product team:
- Innovative: A product team needs to understand its responsibility to innovate within the company and within the industry. They need to understand how their product is innovating. For this we can look to the work of Clayton Christensen on the types of company innovation: is the team’s product a disruptive innovation? Does the company need to sustain an already existing innovation? Or does the innovation within the business need to be higher efficiency (Efficiency Innovations)? A strong product team understands the innovations that need to be made and asks questions to get there.
- Collaborative: The strong product team's energy comes from collaboration. Creating an innovative, profitable product takes a whole company. Not only do the product teams need to collaborate within themselves, but the product organization needs to collaborate well with the rest of the company. Aligning goals and strategy will pay off for everyone in the long run.
- User-centric: A product team needs to have its focus be the user. As Clayton Christensen puts it, we hire products as users because we have a ‘job to be done’. We create products for the people. We create products that others will love to use (at least that’s the hope). This alignment of a product to a user’s needs comes after hard work and sustained effort in customer discovery and understanding.
- Business-minded: A strong product team keeps the business goals always in mind. In his book Inspired, Marty Cagan talks about the importance of aligning the product teams with OKRs (Objectives & Key Results). This allows product teams to have a higher purpose. As product people, we can come to the conclusion that none of us could have a job without customers buying our products or revenue to sustain our business.
- Focused: Lastly, a product team must be focused on their responsibilities and stewardship. Whether you are on a product team at a startup managing the whole product yourself, or at a Fortune 500 company working on a small piece of a product — you need to know your domain. You can focus on the why behind what you do and how it will impact the business as a whole. Teams with a profound sense of direction will almost always get there.