Scorecard for a Product Management Team

As a Product Management leader, I have pondered ways to measure the effectiveness, maturity, growth and development of a team. Here is what I thought would be a holistic approach for the same.

1 Talent Review – Evaluate the strengths and opportunities for growth for each member of the team based on their grade level. Based on this assessment, craft a training plan by quarter for the fiscal year. Leverage it to build a mentoring program within the team where senior leaders can mentor junior PMs. Perform a SWOT analysis to gauge domain expertise on the team.
2 Leadership Sponsorship – It is a good idea to engage sponsorship from senior management to ensure the success of a Product Management organization. Defined roles and responsibilities also help in ensuring there is accountability and commitment towards achieving results.
3 Processes, Procedures and Documentation – As with any function in an organization, especially as it scales, effective and efficient processes and tools for the product development lifecycle. Use of productivity and collaboration tools to foster team work and sharing.
4 Customer Engagement – Does the team have formal customer engagement forums before, during and after implementation? Do these include cross sections of the customer segment especially the influencers and decision makers?
5 Emerging Technologies Investment – Progressive Product Management organizations allocate time for exploring and prototyping new ideas, and concepts for products. These could include capabilities with growth opportunities in existing products or entirely new product segments. While doing so, sunset products that provide little value to the business.
6 Marketing Processes –Go to Market processes and procedures are well defined and executed. Analysis using sales tools that capture customer interactions during the sales lifecycle. Measurement and reporting of product revenue, pricing effectiveness, and ROI. Marketing mix strategy and plans are in place. Marketing campaigns are governed with ROI calculations.
7 Continuous Learning – A culture of continuous learning from industry peers, organizations, conferences, and competitive research.
8 Operating Rhythms – Well defined and implemented Operating Rhythms that provide the right level of governance for the product’s success. These include Product and Operations Reviews.
9 Metrics for evaluating Effectiveness – Internal and external surveys to collect feedback with areas for improvement.
10 Vibrant environment – One that fosters and encourages collaboration, sharing, growth and having fun. Group events to bring teams together or competitions among team members are ways to build a creative environment.

Use the above list to gauge where you are in the progress and improvement of your team.

Top 10 tips for effective mentoring

I started mentoring when I started my first job. Since I felt blessed, I made a commitment that I would always help in some way and give back. In the course of my career, I have had some awesome mentors who helped shape my life. I still exchange Christmas cards with my first manager and mentor from 20 years ago. She is such a powerful, fearless leader who taught me some lessons that I remember to this day.

Hence, it is never too early to start mentoring and giving back. You learn and grow from each mentoring experience. As you help someone with less experience in your area of expertise, you will also gain a fresh perspective. What can give you greater pleasure and joy than making an impact in someone’s life?
Here are some tips to assist you on your journey as a mentor.

10. Put the interests of your mentee above your own biases. Be committed to serve in the relationship. Be realistic in what you can provide and achieve.
9. Facilitate your mentee’s thinking process to find one’s own answers. Coach. Avoid being prescriptive. It encourages thoughtful analysis. There is greater ownership in results if one participates in the decisions made.
8. Be a good, empathic listener without judgment. In the words of Mark Goulston and John Ullmen “learn to listen into other people to discover what’s going on inside them. It’s listening on their terms, (not yours) to understand where people are coming from that establishes genuine rapport”.
7. Invest in being a SME (subject matter expert) in the area relevant so that you can direct your mentee to specific resources.
6. Point out your mentee’s opportunities for constructive development. Challenge and motivate. Be frank, and respectful.
5. Put yourself in the mentee’s shoes and experience their dilemma if there is one. It will foster being supportive.
4. Respect confidentiality. The mentee may share information in confidence that may be required for the mentorship. Share your story. It builds trust.
3. Prepare for each meeting/interaction. Each meeting should have a purpose, agenda and outcome that are tied to the overall objective and schedule. Track and celebrate progress.
2. Put a schedule for the learning experience. Plan the phases with outcomes, and metrics that can be measured.
1. A mentorship should have an objective, mission, and goals that are agreed upon at the beginning.

Reading References: Effective Mentoring by Dr. Norman H. Cohen
NCWIT: National Center for women in IT.

Top 10 attributes of high performing teams

According to Jon R Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith, “A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable”. Teams are the fundamental unit for getting work done in high performing organizations. Success depends largely on the collective contributions of the team members towards a mutually agreed outcome.

10. Depending on the outcome expected from the team, an optimal size with the right mix of complementary skills is important. It will enhance constructive collaboration, communication, and participation from all members. For complex deliverables a size of 6-10 members is optimal.
9. There must be implicit trust amongst members of the team. An environment that fosters dealing with honesty and integrity will nurture great work.
8. The team should feel comfortable in dealing with conflict.
7. Select a deviant on the team to encourage divergent thinking and making the right choices.
6. Well defined, documented, efficient processes shared will ensure the effective utilization of team resources. This addresses “how” work gets done.
5. Members should be held personally accountable, and empowered to hold each other to their commitments.
4. A successful team helps each other achieve ones’ goals in times of crisis.
3. Clear transparent communication is at the core of high performing teams.
2. Leadership is a shared role in high performing teams. The org chart could have a named leader.
1. It is important to have a vision, values, charter, goals, with specific measurable metrics that matter that is embraced in by all members. This addresses the “why” and the “what” aspects of teams.

Reading References – The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
On Teams – Harvard Business Review
The Encyclopedia of Leadership by Murray Hiebert and Bruce Klatt
The Wisdom of Teams by Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith

Top 10 Tips for fostering Innovation

Generating and implementing new ideas is essential for survival in business. Innovation is the catalyst that stimulates new thoughts. Successful organizations build innovation as a foundation in their culture. Promoting a passion for collaborating to build innovative solutions is critical. Attached is a capability map for Innovation in pdf format.

10. Focus your products/services, on offering/enhancing value for the customers to complete “jobs”. Customers must be willing to pay for the value offered.
9. Decompose customer jobs into respective processes, capabilities and explore “key moments of truth” that can be improved.
8. Build customer intimacy and look for inefficiencies. Challenge “status quo”. Imbibe a “cycle of continuous improvement”.
7. Explore “reverse innovation” – solving customer pain in emerging markets with early adopters; build, test, learn then expand to other global markets.
6. Encourage, promote, reward innovation with formal venture planning processes across the value chain to source, fund, develop, productize, monetize and share ideas throughout the organization.
5. Allocate time for experimenting across all levels within the organization.
4. Promote working with limited resources/constraints; it breeds innovative/creative solutions.
3. Explore new business models applying new and existing technologies to form new solutions.
2. Enhance collaboration within departments, between departments and between companies and partners. Engage stakeholders.
1. Foster an entrepreneurial culture of taking risks, dealing with ambiguity, failing fast, learning and moving on.

Reading Reference – Inspiring and Executing Innovation – Harvard Business Review

Innovation Capabilities

Leadership and Management: Are they different?

Leadership is strategic while management is tactical. Leadership involves setting the vision, strategy, motivating and aligning people and resources to deliver on them. Management is about dealing with the complexity of tactical tasks to deliver on initiatives in a repeatable predictable manner. Management plans, budgets, solves issues.
Successful leaders are required to balance both traits while managing organizations. It is not an either or situation.

Here is a good HBR piece that explains both Management and Leadership.

Lesson on Culture

While building and growing companies, we focus on technology, customers, revenue but most often miss out on some basic tenets that build and sustain great companies; values, culture, people that are foundational elements for long term success. I came across this presentation that outlines the culture of Netflix. Even though Netflix faced some challenges in 2012, if they “walk the talk” as presented in this material, they will thrive in the long term. Enjoy the presentation below.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg praised the deck saying:
“It may well be the most important document ever to come out of the Valley.”

A high performance culture generates high performing teams that deliver sustained great results. It is refreshing to see the importance given to honesty, selflessness and teamwork. The difference between “good process” and “bad process” is important because as companies grow they tend to implement complex processes that inhibit innovation and speed. Responsible policies foster responsibility.