Align Your Team Around Principles

Your team’s focus should revolve around a company-wide principle that guides your products. That empowers members of the team to make decisions because they understand both the vision and mission.  If everyone has the right framework and understanding, then all of the debates and differing…

Your team’s focus should revolve around a company-wide principle that guides your products. That empowers members of the team to make decisions because they understand both the vision and mission.  If everyone has the right framework and understanding, then all of the debates and differing opinions that come up will sort themselves out.

Our Take:

Sometimes, making decisions can be the most difficult part of the job as a product person.  For many companies, there is never a lack of good ideas flowing. The real question is which ideas to focus on, and when?

Des Traynor of Intercom suggests that if a company has an overarching principle that it lives by, which is bought into and understood by its employees, then the decisions that product people are faced with becoming much easier.  In a way, one can simply ask themselves, “Is this idea in line with our company’s core beliefs?” The answer to that question can help drive whether or not time and effort should be focused on a particular piece of work.

Of course, if you don’t know what your company’s core beliefs are and there isn’t a shared understanding of an overarching principle that your company lives by, then that’s a problem.  But, it’s not an insurmountable one. You can…

  1. Really dig in with your management team on what your company’s core beliefs and principles are.  After all, understanding this should be a critical part of defining your company’s product strategy anyway.
  2. Begin to meet with individual contributors within your organization to get their take on what the company’s core beliefs are and should be.  You may be surprised to find out that, while it’s never been directly stated, team members already rally around certain key principles.
  3. Get everybody in the same room to share what you’ve learned, and start to document and memorialize these key beliefs.  In doing so, you can eliminate future ambiguity.

Articulating your company’s key principles may seem like something that’s out of your scope as a product person — and it can be an extremely difficult process, especially when you’re working at a very large organization.  Yet, understanding the principles behind why your company exists is essential in order for you to do your job well as a product person. Sure, it may not be easy — but we didn’t become product people because it was an easy job, now did we?

Paul McAvinchey
Paul McAvinchey
paul@productcollective.com

For over 15 years, Paul has been building and collaborating on digital products with fast-growing startups and global brands, including AOL and WMS Gaming. Currently, he's a co-founder of Product Collective, a 15,000+ strong worldwide community of product people. Members collaborate on Slack, meet at INDUSTRY: The Product Conference, listen to Rocketship.fm, learn at Product Lunch and get a weekly brief that includes best practices in product management. In recent years he led business development at DXY, a leading product design firm in the Midwest, and product innovation at MedCity Media, a publishing startup acquired by Breaking Media in 2015.