Making empowered product teams work in the real world

In the age of digital transformation, the concept of empowering product teams to become autonomous and self-sufficient is growing in popularity. While this model promises increased agility, creativity, and innovation, implementing it can be challenging. Below, we explore some best practices that can help make empowered product teams a reality.

Illustration of product design

Understanding autonomy vs. control

The first step is to comprehend the balance between autonomy and control. Autonomy is often mistaken for an absence of control, while in reality, it's more about creating an environment that facilitates learning and growth. It's about moving away from a rigid control structure to one that fosters learning and encourages decision-making.

Mapping confidence vs. experience

Understanding the team's confidence and experience levels is crucial in providing the right support. As a leader, your approach should vary based on these two factors:

  1. Low confidence/Low experience: Here, a demonstrative approach is needed. Explain processes, guide their actions, and provide a safe space for learning.

  2. Low confidence/High experience: In this case, assistance is key. Reassure your team members and provide them with the help they need to regain their confidence.

  3. High confidence/Low experience: Support them by giving them opportunities to apply their confidence, while ensuring they have the resources to overcome their lack of experience.

  4. High confidence/High experience: Motivate these individuals to reach their potential. Encourage them to take on bigger challenges and share their knowledge with the team.

Cultivating intentional collaboration

Creating an environment of intentional collaboration is another crucial element of empowering product teams. Here are some key strategies to foster this:

  • Set a realistic frame: Clearly communicate the team’s roles, responsibilities, and expected outcomes. This transparency helps in building trust and engagement.

  • Leverage experience: Make the most of your team members' experiences. Encourage them to share their knowledge and learn from each other.

  • Foster a learning mindset: Promote an environment where learning is encouraged, and failures are viewed as opportunities for growth.

  • Be situationally responsive: Adjust your leadership style according to the needs of the situation and the team.

Where to spend your time

As a leader, distributing your time wisely can significantly influence the success of your team:

  • 50% on maximum impact: Spend the majority of your time on tasks that create the most significant value or impact.

  • 25% on improving ways of working: Invest time in refining your processes and improving efficiency.

  • 15% on running the business: Spend time on tasks that keep the business running smoothly, such as administration and maintaining existing products.

  • 10% on knowing your people: Invest time in understanding your team members on a personal level. This builds stronger relationships and aids in tailoring your leadership approach to individual needs.

In conclusion, making empowered product teams work in the real world requires a balance of intentional collaboration, strategic time investment, and situational responsiveness. By following these strategies, you can create an environment that fosters autonomy, promotes learning, and ultimately, drives product success.

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