Product Management

Transforming Into a True Product Company: A Guide for the C-Suite

We often meet prospective partners and identify the need to transition from a traditional business model to a product-centric one. However, it has proven quite difficult to convey that specific need to the founders and management teams. It’s not just a nice-to-have we’re talking about here - it's a necessity for staying competitive.

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AUTHOR

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Jasper Venema

Senior Product Owner

May 2024

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4 minutes

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Introduction

As an avid product enthusiast, I've had the privilege of listening to and engaging with thought leaders and practitioners who are co-steering this new paradigm in its current direction.

Most recently, I attended a meetup featuring the esteemed Marty Cagan. He shared insights on how to pave the way for companies aspiring to become true product organisations.

Start with Why: Communicating the Imperative for Change

The first step in advising CEOs and senior management on embracing a product-centric model is to articulate the 'why'. Change for the sake of change is a recipe for resistance. Instead, leaders need to understand the tangible benefits: faster innovation, closer alignment with customer needs, and, ultimately, a robust bottom line. In playful terms, it's not about joining the bandwagon because it's shiny and new; it's about ensuring you're not left driving the horse and buggy in a Tesla world.

Redefining Leadership: From Gatekeepers to Gardeners

Transforming into a product company requires a shift in leadership style. Traditional command-and-control models, where decisions are made at the top and trickle down, are outmoded in a dynamic product environment. Instead, think of leadership as gardeners: their role is to nurture, provide resources, remove obstacles, and let the team cultivate the garden. This means empowering teams to make decisions close to the ground - where the action happens and where they can react swiftly to customer feedback and market changes.

Cultivating an Empowered Product Culture

One of the standout themes from Cagan's discussion was the importance of an empowered product culture. In such an environment, product teams are given problems to solve - not solutions to implement. This shift requires a deep trust in the team's capabilities and a robust framework for continuous learning and adaptation. To borrow a line from jazz, it's less about conducting a symphony and more about fostering a jazz ensemble, where improvisation and innovation lead to beautiful music.

Continuous Discovery as a Habit

If a company is the sum of its routines, then continuous discovery needs to be woven into the daily fabric of the organisation. This isn't just about occasional market research or annual surveys; it's about integrating customer feedback loops into every stage of product development. It means that every product team should be in constant dialogue with their users, testing assumptions, and validating ideas. It's akin to shifting from a diet mentality - where changes are temporary - to making a lifestyle change that's sustainable and impactful.

Implementing a Product Operating Model

The leap from traditional project management to a product operating model is perhaps one of the most tangible transformations. A product operating model focuses on outcomes rather than outputs. It’s about what we achieve, not just what we produce. Here, Marty Cagan's insights are particularly illuminating: adopting a product model means rethinking how we measure success. Are we tracking the right metrics? Are these metrics guiding us towards meaningful impacts for our customers and our business?

Educating and Equipping the Top Brass

Lastly, the transformation journey must include educating and equipping the company's leaders. They must be literate in the principles of modern product management - not to micromanage, but to provide the right support and make informed strategic decisions. This might involve tailored workshops, bringing in external experts, or immersive learning experiences. Think of it as equipping explorers with the best maps and tools for a journey into new territories.

Conclusion

Transforming into a product-centric company isn't about discarding everything that's come before. It's about evolving and adapting in ways that leverage your strengths in a digital, customer-oriented age. So, dear CEOs and management teams, consider this a playful nudge - nay, a rallying cry - to reimagine what your organisation can achieve as a true product company and seriously understand what it takes to get there!

As you ponder about Product and explore the potential within your product management practices, remember that you're not navigating these waters alone. We, the 25Friday team, are dedicated to guiding tech companies through the maze of product strategy. With our expertise in consultancy and nearshore development, we partner with organisations to fine-tune their product vision, align their teams, and craft strategies that resonate in today’s dynamic market. Reach out to us, and let's work together to turn your product challenges into successful ventures that stand out in the tech landscape.