guest blogger product management

Scaling a Product Organization

Guest Post by: Carlos Ruiz (Mentee, Session 11, The Product Mentor) [Paired with Mentor, Nis Frome]

At the end of October, Mr Jeff was announcing a couple of very big hits. Firstly, Jeff as a new umbrella brand for all the new services will be providing to our customers; Secondly, a new business line called Beauty Jeff was opening the very first venue in Argentina. Mr Jeff is a blast: from having 50 people and operations in 2 countries to 600 people and operations in 30 countries … in 21 months. This was only in a few people’s mind (five founders, some early employees, and some angel investors) when we started four years ago with the same idea but a centralized model for operations. 

It is overwhelming when you get into hyper-growth mode, and it requires process and strategy to continue the success and growth. For product leaders, that means taking a step back to build a team that can be customer-centric and deliver ongoing innovation to the market. Since product teams face new challenges, product leaders need to ponder how to evolve teams and support individuals across product organizations.

Below is an overview of the main problems I ran into, along with our framework for addressing them and sustaining our innovation and growth. 

Challenges due to hypergrowth

Onboarding: 

  • A huge number of hirings, from C-Level to PMs and Tech lead
  • Process-oriented, not mission, not goals
  • Purpose lost: make new employees impact the team as soon as possible
  • No feedback-loop with new employees

Decision-making process for PMs:

  • No common process, standardized
  • No journey from OKRs to problems and solutions
  • No articulation of the roadmap with uncertainty 
  • Not ahead of the needs
  • Problems for making streamlined decisions, for articulating decisions. Mental models for decisions not clear. 

Team dynamics and structure

  • Low transparency. Low accountability
  • Limited visions of the product by PMs. Very task and feature- oriented. 
  • Low alignment and engagement with the rest of the team 

Regarding problem discovery:

  • Value was feature-based
  • PMs and PDs embedded in delivery
  • Reactive to feedback, stakeholder-biased. 
  • (Sometimes) Metrics in the loop, low customer loop 

Regarding solution discovery:

  • Provided in the problem statement
  • Unique, small changes from initial solutions. Solutions were one-shot
  • Metrics used, little to know customer feedback and validation
  • Embedded in delivery, overhead due to unexpected

Regarding MVP delivery:

  • Term was out there, not clear the scope
  • Delivery blocked due to complex solutions

Regarding continuous delivery:

  • Very technical focus (e.g. backend, frontend can deliver easily for bugfixing) 
  • Forgotten, not feedback in the loop

Solutions for hypergrowth: 

Customer-centricity:

  • Emphasizing Customer in-the-loop. 
  • Required as evidence for opportunities (customer feedback and behavioural data)
  • PMs and PDs are required to have active listening.
  • Devoting 4 hours a month in Customer Support for each member of the team (PMs, PDs, developers)

As part of the Product and Engineering team our shared mission is to make Mr Jeff successful by making our end-customers, franchises, and internal stakeholders successful. It is our role fostering a product culture, by what we do and share with all of them, in which our teams think and interact every day focusing on continuously developing and delivering products of new value to customers. 

Delivering paramount new value to Mr Jeff through continuous product innovation is fundamental: as a company dealing with so many challenges and threats, the Product and Engineering team needs to provide impactful value or we will fail. This was important in the past but it will be becoming more and more crucial.

Product discovery + delivery:

  • Clarifying role of PMs and PDs
  • Setting up a new role to deal with day-to-day 
  • Training the team to embrace Product Discovery: 
    • Several workshops with PMs and PDs
    • Small experiment with the process and some tools (e.g. glidr)
    • Sharing related articles
  • Set up a Product Discovery Board (see Decision-making framework and Thematic Roadmap below)

Onboarding:

Onboarding is one of those things you will find a lot of info. 

New process oriented to:

  • Being productive sooner
  • Improved engagement with the mission, team and company
  • Stronger retention with the company
  • Having more accountable knowledge about the process

Starting to contribute with value to the Product and Engineering team from day 1 by: 

  • Connecting the mission of the company with the Product and Engineering team 
  • Understanding how the Product team works and communicates
  • Get to know how to reach out our customers and internal stakeholders. Emphasizing how to find previous, related previous feedback. 
  • Defining a mentorship program within the team

Operated by 

  • People Ops for the Product Team
  • Coordinates C-Level and Heads for new incorporations dates and mentors
  • Coordinates Verticals (e.g. Laundry end-customer, Laundry franchise) for 
  • Coordinates feedback loop with new employes. 

Team structure:

  • Clarifying PM/PD role with regards of Product Discovery and Delivery – 80% + 20%
  • Changing habits while reporting – e..g how the roadmap of opportunities have changed, who you have talked to, which customer feedback you have …
  • New hirings – Head of Product Design, very aligned. 
  • Still some roles ongoing – e.g. Group Product Manager, Marketing Product Manager

Decision-making framework:

  • For any opportunity, a set of questions to help out the decision-making framework: 
    • Which opportunities might we be taking? Which pain points might we be solving?
    • Which evidences support the opportunity? User feedback, metrics.
    • Who stakeholders might be involved?
    • Which solutions do we envision? More than one
    • Which are the expected outcomes a) in short term; b) long term?
    • Which are the risks of not doing anything? Which are the risks of not finding the proper solution?

Thematic roadmap:

  • Theme – a way to simplify the understanding of main topics and corresponding opportunities
  • A (Thematic) Product Discovery Board with a Roadmap – now, next, after
    • Clarify the mental model with regards the uncertainty of decision-making
    • Related with the decision-making framework to mature opportunities
    • Related to the emphasis in Product Discovery – defining your product backlog
  • Increase visibility and alignment within the team. Transparency and Accountability

Conclusions. Learnings

  • True product leaders lead by influence. Started a weekly internal newsletter about vision of the product. Leading and not monitoring is to ask the right questions.
  • You need to communicate over and over. “Hearing something and internalizing it are two very different things”.
  • Complexity and uncertainty is high. Expectations needs to be set. Training plays a very important role. 

Next steps

  • Going beyond one-man army. With a growing product organization, need other product leaders to communicate message and foster product culture. Feeling a long way to go here in Spain, at least. 
  • From opportunities and mental model for decision-taking, the art of prioritization 
  • Still growing a lot (team is 65 today, expected to be 80 at the end of the year). More roles to define and work. 
  • Bonus points: Other  departments are struggling with decision-taking process. I was asked to lead this part.

About Carlos Ruiz

Carlos Ruiz is co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Jeff – an omni channel platform for customer services in several verticals. Starting as a niche service for laundering and dry-cleaning called Mr Jeff, we were able to operate in more than 25 countries in LATAM, Europe, and Asia and roll-out three more verticals (beauty, fitness, and relax). 


More About The Product Mentor

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The Product Mentor is a program designed to pair Product Management Mentors and Mentees around the World, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise, guided by the fundamental goals…

Better Decisions. Better Products. Better Product People.

Each Session of the program runs for 6 months with paired individuals…

  • Conducting regular 1-on-1 mentor-mentee chats
  • Sharing experiences with the larger Product community
  • Participating in live-streamed product management lessons and Q&A
  • Mentors and Mentees sharing their product management knowledge with the broader community

Sign up to be a Mentor today & join an elite group of product management leaders!

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Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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