10 Mar Team Organization — experimenting with processes, PMs are products & knowing your domain

Product leadership rules to live by from my experience at Pandora. When joining Pandora, John Krawczyk was tasked with building and managing a large team dedicated to their advertising products. From this experience he defined six tactics for building this team, and by extension, building great products. These tactics should push you to organize groups around functional pillars and realize that your PMs are your product.

Managing product managers. An inadequate product manager on your team is destructive. Unlike in other roles, there is usually no one to pick up the slack when that person is failing. Consequentially, the product fails and the customer loses. Marty Cagan insists that all new product managers, even highly experienced ones, should complete a three month period of studying their customers and technologies. And underperforming product managers should be identified early and let go if they do not improve.

We’ve changed our product team structure 4 times. As Buffer grew, the team tried many strategies for organizing their product teams. Starting with simply everyone being on a single product team, they then moved on to a decision-maker process where individuals own various areas of development, then to a fluid process where teams were assembled dynamically to tackle a specific purpose. Finally they arrived at a process, inspired by the Spotify team, where squads are deployed for specific goals and chapters allow individuals with similar functions to learn from one another.

Paul McAvinchey
Paul McAvinchey

Paul has spent over 15 years building and collaborating on digital products with the likes of AOL and WMS Gaming. Currently, he leads business development for DXY Solutions, a leading product design firm in the Midwest with a focus on building beautiful applications for connected devices. Previously, he led product development for MedCity Media, a publishing startup acquired by Breaking Media in 2015. He's also a founder of Product Collective, a new initiative to connect product people from across the world online and in person at INDUSTRY: The Product Conference held in Cleveland annually.

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