Making the Product and Development Partnership Thrive
I recently talked to a potential client that had made the decision to change all their product manager titles to “product associates” because the development team was bristling at the idea of having their peers being titled “managers.” Going to HR seems like a pretty drastic option, but it’s not that big of a surprise. There’s lots of dysfunction to be had with product teams.
So this organization went through the process of removing the industry-standard job title rather than do the work of understanding what was getting in the way of the team working well together.
Having the product manager and the development lead partner well together is a cornerstone of great product teams. The behavior they exhibit sets the standard for how the team cooperates, connects, and, ultimately, thrives.
What does this look like in healthy companies? One of the most effective actions—which also happens to be simple and cheap to execute— is to get closer to your customer. Here’s how this advice works with both protagonists.
When’s the last time you shared the results of a customer interview with your development team? Have you ever played a video of a customer talking about your product at a team meeting?
You need to communicate what you know about the customer, not just do the research and develop epics and user stories that get handed down to the team. Share the details and bring your customer to life—after all, that’s who the team is developing for, so they need to understand your customer in the same way you do. Start seeing part of your job as getting your team deeply vested in understanding the customer.
At your next daily standup or sprint planning meeting, take five minutes to tell a customer story. Watch the rest of the team get motivated and want to learn more.
Have you ever gone to a customer meeting? Has any of your team?
Use those strong logical skills that make you a great developer to understand why you’re being asked to develop a certain feature or product. What’s the rationale behind the epic? What was behind the product decision? If you connect your team with the customer, they’ll get more engaged, ask better questions, and come up with new solutions rather than just calculate how many points a user story will take.
Launch a rotation program where each member of the development team rides along with a product manager to a customer meeting at least once a year. You’ll see a stronger, more energized, and more engaged team.
Whichever side of the development or product partnership you’re on, get to know your customer, and do your part to make your relationship thrive.
Vidya Dinamani and Heather Samarin are presenting the session Making the Marriage of Product and Engineering Thrive at STARWEST 2019, September 29–October 4 in Anaheim, California.