Product Mantra: When did I last meet my product development team?

We have had views from Abhay Mathur on ‘When did I last meet my customer‘. Once the Product Manager has ensured that he has chanted the above mantra enough times and has a fair understanding of the customer’s pulse, it is imperative that he translates his understanding to a language that the Product delivery team best understands. So, it is time for the mantra  “when did I meet my product development team last”?

These are some of the questions that the Product Manager has to periodically ask himself and the team:

  • Is the Product development team aligned with my goals?
  • Do they understand the requirements the way I do? Do they know ‘what is in’ and ‘what is out’ for each new feature or requirement that I have drawn?
  • Are they struggling hard to implement something that is not high on my priority list OR are they taking some critical feature quite lightly?
  • Have they covered the boundary scenarios well?
  • Are intangible features like Performance and Predictability taken care of implicitly?

Additionally, what is the right frequency to meet this set of people? A daily meeting? Bug scrubs once a week? Wait, is it not the team’s responsibility to come to me whenever they need inputs?

Puzzled with these and other thoughts??

This is where the Agile model of Software development with its emphasis on Face to Face communication comes handy. The Agile model expects an potentially shippable increment to the product at the end of each Iteration (The Iteration can be between 1 to 4 weeks in duration). Extending this a step further, this means that the product development team and the Product manager should be in complete sync to ensure that Business value is delivered at the end of each iteration.

So, here is my prescription.

  • The delivery team should be co-located with the Product Manager. Click here for definition of Co-located team. When this is not possible, it really helps to invest in communication tools that can mitigate this risk to some extent. Having a Proxy Product Manager who is co-located with the team and is in complete lock and sync with the Product Manager also helps solve the communication challenge.
  • The Product Manager should be available for questions and queries from the team. At times, the team might be trying hard to build something that is low on the Product Manager’s priority. A simple discussion with the Product Manager will ensure that the team aligns itself to the Product Manager’s priorities.
  • The Product Manager should communicate any change in the requirements (caused by meeting customers, a move by the competition, etc) to the team at appropriate times (not too early, not too late).

The path to product management is a tight rope walk. You definitely have to keep your focus on the target while balancing the customer’s needs on the one side and managing the Product development team dynamics on the other.

All the best in your endeavor.

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