EMPOWERED – Achieving Extraordinary Results with Ordinary People – Marty Cagan

Key Points:

It’s not helpful to sugar coat things. It’s better to be honest and frank on a lot of this stuff.

Introduced to a lot of companies, and amazed by the difference between how great companies work and how the rest work. To me, that difference is unacceptable, it’s embarrassing, at this point in our industry.

Product Discovery – it’s my favourite topic, could talk about it all day. Focus on the four risks.

Teach a lot of companies this way of working. But find out later that they are not allowed to work this way. It bothers me, because I know that unless they work this way, they are almost certainly going to go out of business.

In great organizations teams are there to come up with solutions that customers love, but also work for the business. This is fundamentally different to teams which are just there to serve the business.

Truly empowered teams – this is not even new, this is old news. Here are some books that talk about it:

Why don’t more companies really empower their teams?

It comes down to trust. The leaders don’t trust the teams.

It’s also fair that they are mostly right – the product managers are mostly not the right ones to trust. But that is also the leaders fault for hiring them.

Amazon, Apple, Google = have consistently proven how to innovate on behalf of their customers. They have very different cultures. But they have something in common: all four founders were coached by the same person, Bill Campbell.

Etsy: Mike Fisher and Marty Abbott. Both went to West Point and served in the military. Examples of great leaders.

The Role of Leadership – five key responsbilities

  • Product Vision
  • Product Strategy
  • Product Principles
  • Product Priorities
  • Product Evangelism

Great product leaders, at all levels, acknowledged what they don’t know, and what they can’t know. They are humble.

The Role of Management – the three key responsibilities

  • Staffing
  • Coaching
  • Objectives

Most product managers are not competent. So who is helping them? It’s not their fault, it’s their managers fault. This is where I would point the finger the most – the managers of product managers.

Worry less about the company, but rather find a manager who has been there and done it, and is committed to coaching you for the next year or two. That’s the best way to learn product. The vast majority of people however, have never seen and done it.

New Zealand All Blacks have the No Asshole Rule. They’ve figured out that no matter how skilled you are, you can’t be an asshole.

Designers should sit right next to the product managers. The best ones are not just graphic designers, they are product designers.

Findings from Google Project Aristotle – it’s not the team of rock-stars that produces, it’s the team of ordinary individuals who happen to really trust each other, where they don’t have an asshole on the team making them feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

The true test of empowered teams:

  • Is the team staffed with competent people with character, covering the necessary range of skills.
  • The team is assigned problems to solve, and they are able to decide the best way to solve those problems. (This is the best test of whether you have an empowered team or not).
  • The team is accountable for solving the customer or business problem (outcome vs output)

Published by

Tim Woods

Product manager (formerly software engineer and marketing manager) with 17 years of experience in the field of innovation management. South Coast of England.

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