March 10

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

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, 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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