I wanted to introduce a project I’m working on at the moment.
A lot has been written about product, and the structures of organisation that are needed to make it work. But we tend to focus less on the interplay of the key roles which inevitably appear on the top team, the SLT, inside any significantly sized organisation.
And yet, more often than not it is the interplay of these senior roles which will determine the success or failure of product initiatives.
Of course, there’s multiple roles that can exist at the top of organisations: finance, data, commerce, analytics, risk. But I believe there is a particular holy trinity of roles which make the difference: Product, Tech and Marketing.
How these three people – often from very different backgrounds – work together and, critically, how they get their teams to work together is the central predictor of whether firms will be able to launch, grow and maintain products. It also speaks, very directly, to the harmony and cohesiveness that the company itself will feel, contributing directly to employee happiness.
Researching the book has been extremely eye opening, lifting the lid on some businesses that have done this extremely well and others that still find challenges. Perhaps most intriguing for (checks watch) 2023 is that not all firms even have the three disciplines at their top table.
If the team and the leader of marketing, product, tech is not seen as capable of having a coherent voice in discussions of either strategy or tactics, I would suggest there is an even deeper problem in your organisation.
For those that do have all the roles, of course there’s a wide range in both real and perceived sophistication.
The answer to improving performance is not, as many do, to increasingly silo the teams away from each other. Nor of course, is it for one team to disproportionately start doing another team’s thinking for them.
Rather, I advocate that each team has to have a deep knowledge of the other teams’ worlds. It should not be enough to understand that the interaction with Google for PPC is complex and tedious, technologist and product people should understand why. Marketers should understand how products are designed, how they are built and why it can be perceived to take ‘too long’.
Breaking down the barriers isn’t just about increasing understanding and reducing conflict, it is the first step to empowering the organisation to properly work together.
We know it when we see it, but so often we find it hard to replicate in our own companies.
It’s been almost 10 years since I handed the text for Unthinkable over to the publishers. I’ve been reflecting on what I would do better next time and how relevant that book is today. But one thing I have promised myself is to shift the focus from publishing conventions to making a product which is easy to digest. And god knows that doesn’t mean that you have to sit and read it from start to finish. I hope to include a core component that you could read on a short flight, and then loads of different supporting material for product people, technologist and marketers to help them learn and understand each others worlds. Sign up for my newsletter (right) for updates on when the book will be available.