The most popular topic these days is the “product culture.” Readers are curious to know what a healthy product culture means. Some experts define it as an environment where product management is practiced; it is valued by the business and where Product Managers can thrive and grow. Quite simply, “product culture” is a place that allows you to perform all your job responsibilities and deliver products that solve consumer problems.
There are several ways to achieve this, and it’s more than culture. Several companies are successfully known as product organizations and have vastly used different cultures and strategies to develop. PMs have successfully thrived and brought outrageously successful products to market. Such companies understand the value of product management and consistently deliver outstanding results, thus helping their business grows successfully.
Undoubtedly, there will be a vast difference in product culture across the different strong organizations. Where Google is a heavily engineering-oriented mindset, on the other hand, Airbnb has design-driven philosophy. But they have certain features in common. What are they? Marty Cagan and Chris Jones have discussed three consistent themes in their book named EMPOWERED: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products that can help identify winning product organizations. These include:
- Technology Role: Several companies consider technology a necessary expense, while strong product companies do not view technology as an expense. It is the business for them.
- Strong Product Leadership: In most organizations, true product leadership is largely missing in action, and there is no strong product strategy. On the other hand, in strong product companies, the product managers or leaders are the most impactful leaders.
- Powerful Product Teams: In most companies, product teams are not empowered; they are more of feature teams. All they do is implement features and projects. They are not held accountable for results. In contrast, strong product companies give product teams problems that they need to solve rather than features to build.
Though having all three of them doesn’t automatically result in a winning product organization, it is correlated with weak product organizations if any of these features are missing. It also illustrates why it is difficult to change companies from within and why several Product Managers fail to do so. PMs should be able to change how their company perceives the role of technology by themselves. Or they should have the authority to install product leadership into the executive ranks. Being one of the trusted product management consulting firms, we suggest to Product Managers that it’s better to leave the company if they think they are not free to impose product-related changes in their organization.
When searching for a new job position, you can ask questions mentioned below from the new organization. Make sure you ask these questions with enthusiasm rather than annoyance. It will help you know a lot about the company and its product culture.
Questions To Ask To Evaluate The Role Of Technology
- Do they consider technology as a differentiator or a product and a means to an end while describing their unique strategic advantage?
- Do they involve engineers and technologists in the interview process for PMs?
- How do other technology and product processes relate to the organization?
- How does the company explain the purpose of the technology team?
- How is the technical organization described? This can help you learn a lot by using terms like engineering vs. R&D or “IT” vs. “cost center.”
- What are the biggest concerns of the executives with the technology organization?
- What is the role of PMs in their organization?
Questions to Ask To Identify Product Leadership
- To whom does the product team report – a senior product leader who reports directly to the CEO or the PM?
- Are there any product leaders on the executive positions or board of directors?
- What are the characteristics that the company value in product leaders?
- Who owns the product roadmap – is it a command-and-control function of sales or general management?
- Are senior product managers considered amongst the most powerful executives at the company?
- Did they let you spend enough time with product leaders during the interview process?
Questions To Ask TO Find Empowered Product Teams
- How does the company describe its “product team” when asked?
- Where do projects and initiatives come from – seniors mandated or elsewhere in the corporation?
- While describing the role of product management, does it sound more like a tactical project manager or factory floor supervisor?
- Is there any track record of Product Manager’s growing in the company and taking over executive leadership jobs?
- How is success measured for a product, and who decides the criteria?
- Who is in charge of interaction with customers and users and producing learned information?
We certainly don’t mean that you can’t find success or enjoy working as a Product Manager at companies that don’t follow three benchmarks. Many PMs succeed in firms that don’t consider technology. But if you seek product-oriented culture or feel like something is missing in your current job as a product manager, this framework can prove helpful.