The bigger an organization is, the harder collaboration becomes. Because of this, you need to know how to foster collaboration so that you can keep your product consistent and valuable.
In scaling organizations, many product managers add processes and layers to enable review. However, battling complexity with complexity rarely results in success. Teams tend to invest more time in coordinating activities instead of creating value.
I’ve been a part of a range of different organizations, from small start-ups to companies with 100K+ employees. In that time, I’ve done my fair share of complicating processes, but I’ve also learned many lessons that I want to share with you here.
Let’s take a look at what product reviews are, the challenges of scaling them, and how you can best incorporate them into your growing product team.
A product review is the moment where you evaluate what the team created over the last development cycle and align on the next steps. It’s a working session between teams and stakeholders, not a presentation.
Great product reviews produce alignment and engagement. At the end of a product review, stakeholders know what the team created and how it generates value.
There are multiple ways of running a product review, but the most common is getting everyone inside a room, showing the result, and letting stakeholders interact with it. The most important thing is to make the session interactive and valuable.
Suppose you use an agile framework like scrum. In that case, you would use a sprint review for your product review. It takes place at the end of each sprint and lasts around an hour and a half for a two week cycle.
I worked for start-ups with a single product team and running product reviews was a piece of cake. Get everyone in the room, show results, and interact. It was engaging and everyone attended. Also, getting stakeholders to participate was easy because we were all in the same boat.
It becomes complicated when more teams come into place and stakeholders have different interests. Knowing how to deal with this situation is critical.
Scaling an organization brings multiple challenges and product review is one of them. Finding time to get everyone in the same room becomes nearly impossible and having an objective review when various goals are on the table becomes complicated.
The most common challenges I face are:
My first attempt to scale product reviews failed. I followed scrum by the book and wanted everyone from each team present in each sprint review. As a result, we’d have five sprint reviews every second week. Curiously, stakeholders didn’t show up in most of them.
Our teams worked for two target audiences: buyers and sellers. The stakeholders related to each audience were different, so inviting everyone to the reviews was nonsense. I decided to try the following:
The above measures increased the value of our product reviews, but we constantly received one piece of feedback that disturbed me: the product was inconsistent. That showed our teams were not as aligned as we thought. To change that, we started weekly design critique sessions.
The design critique had UX designers on each team and it was one hour a week of passionate and engaging discussions. In these meetings, the following happened:
These weekly sessions got our product more consistent and aligned.
Keep your product reviews as simple as possible. Strive to make it engaging and valuable for your audience. Don’t let processes limit you. Be brave to follow unpopular approaches. Remember, the goal is to create value and alignment, not to follow processes.
Remember, it’s important to resist the urge to battle complexity with complexity. This becomes increasingly difficult as teams grow, but that only makes product review even more important. With larger teams, the key is being well prepared.
Keep your product reviews as simple as possible. Strive to make it engaging and valuable for your audience. Don’t let processes limit you. Be brave enough to follow unpopular approaches. Remember, the goal is to create value and alignment, not to follow processes.
Featured image source: IconScout
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