April 30

Becoming a Successful Continuous Delivery Team

The following insights were gleaned from a presentation at INDUSTRY given by Teresa Torres of Product Talk @ttores. Download Product Management TACTICS eBook for more.

In some organizations, the teams that are actually creating the product aren’t exactly the ones who are learning from customers and conducting user research.  But increasingly, the best modern product teams are different than that.  The core product teams (i.e. product manager, designers, software engineers) are the ones responsible for doing their own discovery. They do their own user research, conduct their own experiments, and synthesize what they are learning week over week to support their daily product decisions.

Product management is changing — it’s moving toward a focus on outcomes. Product teams are getting more autonomy to choose the best path toward an outcome. But autonomy comes with responsibility. There are three mindsets shared by the best teams.

  1. Collaborative mindset: We have to collaborate to deliver products, but there’s more to it. We often let the product manager handle the management. In this case, it’s not really collaboration. The trio (PM, design lead, tech lead) are the minimum required to build good digital products, but we need the expertise of others. There may be engineers, QA professionals, customer success team members, data analysts, and others to consider as well.

It’s easy to take collaboration too far and turn it into consensus. We don’t need consensus from everyone. Just collaboration. Consensus can often lead to opinion battles, which isn’t productive. While it may be difficult, don’t simply advocate for your own point of view. Take everyone’s perspectives and co-create a solution that addresses them.

Cross-functional co-collaboration is hard. Because it’s hard, we tend to resort to handoffs. They feel efficient, but they’re not with products. It’s not about efficiency, it’s about effectiveness. We need the best, not the fastest. How do we create the most value?

We each bring different knowledge to the table, regardless of the fact that we’re all coming from different places. That’s why we need to develop a shared understanding. We assign voices to engineering, design, and other roles. It’s important that we synthesize knowledge so we understand what the customer needs. From that shared foundation, you can make a team decision.

Experience mapping helps you align around what you know about your customer. The opportunity solution tree helps you align around the best path to your desired outcome. Story mapping helps you align around specific solutions.

  1. Continuous mindset: The industry is shifting toward this. Continuous discovery is weekly touch-points with customers by the team building the product where they conduct small research activities in pursuit of a desired outcome. Product teams need to know how to get fast answers to this week’s questions from customers.Avoid “whether or not” situations with regard to research and ideas. It sets you up to fall prey to confirmation bias. We’re seeking validation and ignoring evidence. Instead, set up compare and contrast decisions. This helps you find the best solution. 
  2. Experimental mindset: A/B testing as a discovery tool doesn’t work. You should do more than simple A/B tests. Include prototyping and other forms of tests and experiments.

Our experiments should be failing and often — that’s an indicator that we’re learning.  Test your assumptions and kill your flawed theories. Be prepared to be wrong. Combine confidence and doubt to be wise. Maintain a state of doubt. Consider how your team can be more collaborative. How can you continuously seek solutions? How can you be more experimental and embrace being wrong?

To learn more about Teresa, visit ProductTalk.org and to view Teresa’s full presentation, visit:


Paul McAvinchey

About the author

For over 20 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 worldwide community of product people. Members collaborate on in the exclusive Member Hub, meet at INDUSTRY: The Product Conference, listen to Rocketship.fm, learn at Product Interviews and get a weekly newsletters 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.


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