Fostering Product-Thinking Within Your Team

Fostering Product-Thinking Within Your Team

Pia Opulencia
Pia Opulencia

January 03, 2024

A Frequent Misdiagnosis

We’ve seen it before and what usually follows: Leadership wonders why software development velocity is slow (“Just ship it faster!”), customers are not adopting the product (“Make it cooler!”), and teams frequently miscommunicate or misunderstand requirements (“Provide more documentation!”). And yet, simply changing the mechanics of how the product is built may not achieve the desired result, making development slower or features less delightful.

The Certainty Effect

What levers can we pull to solve “slow delivery”? Is it the number of people on the team? The requirements process or lack thereof? Is it tooling and infrastructure? There is a wealth of information surrounding product development, delivery frameworks, and an industry of SaaS products that bake in their own development workflows as best practice. So, when faced with uncertainty about how to solve a problem like “slow delivery,” we often default to what is most known to us and thus perceived as less risky. We pull on the levers that we know and are tractable.

Organizations employ a myriad of software development practices and team structures with no two companies following the exact same form. The most successful software product companies master connecting their customers with the value their product offers. What do these companies have in common? Product mindset.

Mindset Mastery

Instead of focusing on processes and tools, organizations have shifted toward focusing on the mentality of approaching a problem to solve. The organizations able to hone this skill across their teams are more likely to achieve their desired outcomes.

A product mindset places the customer at the center of every decision, values continuous improvement, and emphasizes the long-term success and sustainability of a product. Before diagnosing your organization’s particular issues, observe how your teams work together, make decisions, and frame problems within four pillars of product mindset:

  1. The necessity of prioritizing features based on customer feedback and market demand. Evaluate how priorities are defined within each workstream. Do the parameters being considered, such as level of effort and addressable market, fit the target customer?

  2. The importance of delivering value to the customer. Has your team attended a user research call? Does your team see customer support tickets? Building empathy for the customer can improve how we decide what to build.

  3. The need for a long-term vision for the product. Does your team make near-term technical decisions that balance the long-term vision? Does the long-term vision provide the team with tractable problems to solve?

  4. The significance of cross-functional collaboration and teamwork. How are the teams communicating with each other? Is there transparency or siloes?

Value-driven Prioritization

Customer feedback is the lifeblood of a product-driven mindset. To develop this mindset, your teams should actively seek, analyze, and act upon customer feedback. This requires a shift from a "build it and they will come" mentality to a "listen, iterate, and improve" approach.

To prioritize customer feedback:

  • Collect feedback through surveys, user interviews, and data analytics.

  • Create a feedback loop that channels insights back to the development teams.

  • Use feedback to prioritize feature development and product improvements.

  • Continuously iterate based on customer input

Two bulleted lists showcasing the customer value outputs of backlog prioritization versus value-driven prioritization.

Driving Toward a Vision

A product mindset requires a clear understanding of what success looks like. Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics that align with your product's objectives. This enables your teams to measure progress and make data-driven decisions incrementally. The continuous measurement and milestones towards the long-term vision allow for course corrections along the way.

To set clear goals and metrics:

  • Define measurable objectives for your product.

  • Establish realistic timelines and milestones.

  • Monitor KPIs and adjust strategies accordingly.

  • Celebrate achievements and learn from setbacks

Cultivating an Empowered Team

Fostering a product mindset starts with breaking down silos within your organization. Encourage cross-functional collaboration among product, design, development, and quality assurance teams. This multidisciplinary approach ensures that all stakeholders are aligned with the product vision and share responsibility for its success.

To promote collaboration:

  • Create cross-functional teams where members work together on the same product.

  • Establish clear communication channels to facilitate information sharing.

  • Encourage regular meetings and brainstorming sessions.

  • Celebrate team achievements rather than individual accomplishments.

By focusing our improvements around mindset and less on promoting “foolproof processes” we promote the agility of the team. This agility allows for organizations to react quickly to changing market conditions, leveraging the empowered team to extract and deliver continuous value to customers.

Interested in learning more about how your organization can adopt a product mindset? Give us a shout!