Bruce McCarthy: Is My Product Team Any Better?

Bruce discussed how you can tell if your product team is any good and how to make them excel at BoS Europe in 2022. You can catch the session here.

Could you be going faster? Could you be winning more? Making customers happier? How do you know if you have the right team to make these things happen? How do you set them up for success?

Not surprisingly, it was a talk that sparked a very lively Q&A and ongoing discussions across the conference. 

In this online session Bruce will recap some of the key points of this talk and in an interactive Q&A, help you address some of the practical steps you can take in your own org to improve product outcomes and the health of your product team.

Transcript

Bruce McCarthy

Leadership
At your company’s size and stage, getting a company of your size and stage to the next tranche of growth. And have they worked with a team, that’s this the size of the product team that you’re asking them to join, or and lead or larger? One thing I will say is B2B and B2C are very different. So I would draw a distinction there. If you’re talking about two different B2C products, that’s fine. But a lot of things are different, go-to market is different, the scale of data that you have available to you, and therefore your research methods are different in B2B and B2C. And then if I’m an interviewing a current CPO, or someone who’s got a job now, and I’m evaluating them as possible CPO for a company, I want to know where their head is at? What do they spend the most time thinking about? And working on what’s their typical week, like? I also want to know how they handle failure. I want to know, if they had a product launch or a feature launch or UI change or something like that, that really didn’t work. I want to ask them to tell me the story about that and I don’t want them to be embarrassed about failure, because everything, everyone has failures. I want them to demonstrate that they’ve learned something from that. And that they helped their team learn something from that rather than blaming someone and firing someone. These are all things that exhibit or explain or show leadership rather than micromanagement. I don’t want to hear about schedules and resources and budgets. I want to hear about results or lack of results and we learned something. That’s the leadership aspect of it that I wanted to talk about.

Structure
I also wanted to talk and I did talk in the spring about structure. Some people do, as I said, think about the product team as just one other another of many functions. And it’s the function that listens to the customer writes everything down and hands it off to engineering to build. And I think that is completely wrong. I think that there is a tiny aspect of the job that’s like that. But really, we don’t want to think about it as a functional siloed organisation where you have the product team, the engineering team, the design team, etc. Instead, I would turn all of that sideways. And I would make a matrix organisation of as many functions as necessary for autonomous teams to be able to deliver value to the market. So you might set up your product teams horizontally, with a product manager, a designer, the necessary engineers, and some testers, and maybe other functions to data science, content, maybe even representation from sales and marketing and customer success. They, all of course, still report up to ahead of their particular function. But their primary day-to-day work is informed by and governed by the product team that they’re on and what that team owns. And the leader of that team, in a good product led organisation is the product manager. It’s not if I’m the designer on that team, and I and some guy named Bruce asks me, ‘What team are you on?’ I don’t want you to say ‘I’m on the design team’, I want you to say ‘I’m on product team filling the blank as the designer.’ is fine. But the team loyalty in a product culture is primarily to the product team rather than to the functional team.

Cultural
Now I want to talk about the cultural aspect. So in my mind, my definition of product culture is – it’s an emergent property of a team, when many functions come together to share a mission to scalability make their customers awesome and successful. That’s how businesses and products become successful is by focusing on the customer cross functionally. I love it if it’s at least product engineering and design. But it’s increasingly today I am seeing happily a movement toward making that broadly cross functional to include marketing and sales as well. And that’s where you see organisations truly becoming product lead. Now I want to talk about that.

With those three necessary sort of high level concepts in mind, I want to talk about how I evaluate the teams to assess the product culture. And it’s really hard to measure something as ephemeral as culture. But you can measure, or at least I find that I’m able to get a sense for the behaviours that result from and support a good product culture.

Priotisation
And these are the four that I’m really looking for. I’m looking for a focus on making the customer awesome and successful. I’m looking for a shared vision of the future that everybody is bought into. I’m looking for that prioritisation between teams that is, I’m a member of the product X team, not, I’m a member of the engineering team. And then I’m also really looking with my CFO hat on for enablers of scale. That is I’m looking for habits of mind and ways of thinking that are not bespoke for one customer. But instead, thinking about ways that we can make things repeatable, resellable, reusable so that we can scale. And that’s very much wrong with product lead growth these days.

I don’t want to spend too much time on slides. But I’ll give you a few ideas about the questions that I ask when I’m interviewing members of a product team to understand whether these habits are there or not. My approach to interviews is very informal. I do have a list of questions, but I keep it conversational. And I try to keep a lot of my questions open ended to try to uncover people’s unconscious biases and ways of thinking. So for example, I want to understand if we, number one, is focusing on making the customer awesome, do we have a clear target customer, and problem or set of problems for that customer that we solve? So I ask straight out, tell me who’s your target customer? And what problem do you solve for them? And what I’m looking for is A a clear answer. And B after I do multiple interviews, a consistent answer. With one company that I’ve worked with, I asked five executive team members who the customer was and I got three different answers. One was as broad as anybody who needs what we sell. Another was only large enterprises. And the third one was oh, but we’re moving down market, so midsize companies as well. I’ve interviewed folks where they can’t really answer that question, because they’re not allowed to talk to customers. And that’s a big red flag for the product team, if they’re not allowed to talk to customers. I want to know that they are regularly in discovery with customers. And so I probe on that, even if they haven’t volunteered that they’re not allowed by asking, What was the most recent time that you had contact with the customer? And tell me all about that. So I’m trying to assess how frequent This is how much of a part of their regular job discovering what customers really need is, and then I want to know that they are validating their assumptions with numbers. I asked them, you know, what metrics are you tracking? And I want to know if they have those ready to hand or to mind? And then my favourite question is, tell me what was the last feature or product that you killed that you sunset that you withdrew that you rolled back? And I want to hear the story about why? Because if it’s really about making customers successful, and not about just shipping lots of features, then you have to make room for the possibility that a feature is no longer or never was making customers successful or making your business successful. And it’s just taking up space, and it’s making everyone’s job harder trying to support it. So if you’ve never killed a feature, that’s a word.

Shared Vision for the Future
Let’s talk about a shared vision for the future. I also ask people, open ended questions like ‘What is you or your team what is your or your team’s current goal?’ And what I’m looking for is not we’re trying to ship a feature or I’m trying to get this bug closed or I’m trying to close 10 tickets this sprint but we’re trying I want to hear something loftier I want we’re trying to democratise data distribution. We’re trying to make it possible for people to do something that they could never before or have the power of big companies.

I also want to ask lots of like, ‘Tell me your value proposition ? Why do people choose your product or feature?’ And I want to hear again, a clear answer and consistency. And I want to know, again, what’s the three year plan? A lot of the time, there aren’t good answers to this. And that’s a, that’s a clue. We talked about teams, I think it’s important that the teams be set up correctly, in order for them to accomplish their mission. And so I’m asking a bunch of questions about the structure. And I hinted at the one that I would ask here, tell me what team you’re on. I’m going to even though I probably know, because I usually get some advance information. I just want to know what they say, when asked outright, what team are you on? ‘Oh, I’m on the design team’, or ‘I’m on product X.’ And I also want to know about whether the team has a sense of ownership of how they pursue their mission. I’ve asked about the mission. Now I’m going to say, Who decides what you work on? if I’m an engineer, is it the engineering manager? Is it the CEO? Or is it the leader of my product team, a product manager? And that’s the answer I’m looking for. And cutting a feature or slipping a date, I want to know if there’s a culture of blaming around dropping things, or whether there is a culture of learning and optimization. By asking what happened the last time you missed something.

Enablers of Scale
And then there’s that fourth one enablers of scale. I want to know about product customization, versus standardisation. I want to know if a lot of the time your products have a lot of your deals, have a lot of features signed into the contract. Or whether there’s a lot of pressure to grant one of feature requests from big customers to keep them and what the balance is between roadmap and custom requests. A lot of the time, though, I’m asking about, tell me the last time that rather than asking about patterns, because people’s judgement about patterns, or at least what they’re willing to tell you, is not as good as yours. As an outsider, as a third party. I’ll ask what was the last time of six people and compare those answers. And that gives me a good idea of the pattern. If I tried to ask them for their analysis, they’re either going to be probably wrong because of a limited point of view, or misleading because they don’t want to make their organisation sound bad. They want to make their decision sound good and rational. I’d want to just ask what their business objectives are. But the way to ask it is, tell me what is the contribution of your product to your business. And tell me who owns product and loss, I want to see if they spontaneously come up with business objectives or something else. And then buy versus build. This is my way of thinking about whether it’s engineering lead, or really product lead. Engineers will always want to build something themselves because they feel like they can do it better than the other guy.
Blood product, people know that we only have so much bandwidth, and we need to focus on the truly novel and differentiated things. And that if we can get something that’s adequate for something that’s non core like, authentication, then let’s just partner with Okta and get it done.

Conclusion
So those are, those are my four good behaviours to look for. My interview process is very informal, as I said, a few tips on doing a good team, get to know you sorts of interviews, or any stakeholder interviews really are number one, don’t only talk to the target group, don’t just talk if you’re evaluating the product team, don’t just talk to the product managers, talk to the everyone who interacts with them, which is a lot of people. So I always talk to someone in sales, someone in support someone in engineering, someone in design, etc. To get a fully rounded picture. I also, and this is probably the weirdest question I asked. I start off by asking everybody after I find out what their job is, ‘Tell me how awesome is it being in your job right now?’ On a scale of one to five, where five is the best job I’ve ever had, I’m lucky they pay me. and one is we wrap up this conversation because I have an appointment with a recruiter. And whatever number they tell me it doesn’t really matter. I want to know why. I want them to just expand about what’s good or bad about being in their job right now. And I learned a tonne. That means I don’t even have to ask half of the other questions that I have because they just volunteer, where things were in their mind, things are broken. And then I follow those. I lead with that question, because I follow where that leads. Oh, tell me more about that. Or give me an example. When was the last time that and I pretty much get to fill out my scorecard? By following up on that question, I take detailed notes. In fact, I used to spend practically the entire interview typing, and now I have a transcription service, which is not bad. And then I go into my transcription or my notes, and I pull out quotes from various interviews, and I bring them together by themes. I don’t put any names on things. But that’s the most compelling evidence, I think, for something that’s a little bit qualitative, is to have quotes from people that are in arguable, it’s not just saying, ‘Well, four out of people said’, I’m saying, here are the words that they used, and it’s just very compelling. And I’m working on a way to do this. With a survey, as you can tell, the way I approach it is somewhat nuanced and different for every conversation. But there may be, I’m hopeful that there is a way to gather some macro data and follow up with a smaller number of interviews with individuals to speed up the process, and that might also give all of you some help in evaluating product teams, within your organisation, or before you join an organisation to understand where they’re going.

Promos
Two quick promos, and then we’ll go to questions. If you don’t subscribe yet to my nano letter, every Thursday. One thing on product culture you can get there, you can do that on product culture.org. It’s free. And it’s really as short as you see here. That’s why I call it a nano letter. It’s so short, it’s quicker to read it than to put it in your folder to read later that you never read later.

And then the other promo is I mentioned in the breakout, I am writing a book coming next year from O’Reilly. Second book, my second book, The first one was on roadmaps and it’s called Aligned Stakeholder Management for Product Leaders. This is the outline. And as you can see, it starts with building trust. And if you’re interested in getting a preview of the book, I’m having an Early Readers Club, where we’re releasing, pre release draft excerpts of chapters, there’s two chapters out already. And a third one about to drop. There is a small monthly fee, just to make sure that people are really interested. But you’ll have the opportunity not only to read the material early, but to put comments in the Google Docs and maybe we’ll use your stories and quotes as well. And we get together once a month to talk about the latest excerpt. That’s my summary. I will stop sharing now. And I’m happy to take any questions.

Mark Littlewood
Great. Thank you, Bruce. And really, you could see some of the story arcs across the across the day. You brought up a number of things that people had spoken about earlier in the day, but thank you very, very much. Indeed. That was that was great questions, you can put them in the chat as usual or you can take yourself off mute and shout out but I think a shower and I know you’d been talking earlier on about measuring product culture.

Bruce McCarthy
Did you see my see my mug?

Mark Littlewood
Very on brand. Many different BoS ways of keeping your drinks hot or cold.

Audience Member
Just don’t put them in the dishwasher because the stuff does come off from the outside and you can’t see this BoS. Oh, and you don’t want that right. Learn by mistakes from me.

Bruce McCarthy
Sorry to distract share with you. We’re about to jump in.

Audience Member
Yeah, we already had a quite good discussion in the breakout room. But uh, yes. In the first session, I did ask a question, actually. How do you measure the sort of process of interest do you think the product culture?

Bruce McCarthy
Right. Well, you know, I said it’s hard on ideas. And I think that there are three things that I would say that are practical in terms of measuring, the ultimate thing that you’re looking for is results is, are we meeting the business results? That are the reason that we hire engineers, designers and product people. And over the long term, that’s what you should expect to improve because you’ve hired good, smart and a sufficient number of product people, and given them clear direction about what those objectives are. And you can measure that in OKRs, like growth, or margin or retention or any of those kinds of business results. And you should hold your team to that. That said, those things change slowly, right? They don’t necessarily make big leaps quarter to quarter, or sprint to sprint.


So the second thing I would say is you want to look for leading indicators, or our proxy metrics that tell you that the product team is adding value and making progress toward those longer term goals. So the classic thing, especially in B2C is, if you want to see growth, well, you’ve got to have retention. But retention only happens once a year, and it’s hard to move. So a leading indicator for retention is usage.

People who use a product, daily, weekly, whatever, are less likely to churn because they’re getting value out of it, or they wouldn’t be using it. Customer Success teams instrument the product just to learn which accounts are not using it, and are therefore at risk for churn. So product teams can use it use those metrics to not on an account by account basis. But overall, hey, we made a change and usage is up. What can we learn from that? That’s the classic in B2C. Now, in B2B, you may not have as much usage data, because the numbers are smaller, often, or because depending on your tool, if it’s not SAS, you may not have access to the actual statistics on when people log in, if it’s on premise software, for example. So that makes it harder. But you can try to find other proxy metrics. Like if you hold regular product feedback councils, how many people come, for example, that that’s a measure of engagement.

And you can do especially with enterprise software, you can do a lot of customer interviews, to try to get qualitative data about what’s about the satisfaction or engagement of your, of your customers. So that’s number two, long term business metrics is one. Two is leading indicators like usage. And the third one is the right habits and activities. And that’s what I was trying to evaluate. In, in all my questions, it’s the right discipline of focusing on the customer, focusing on on what you can measure about the customer and their success, and aligning the entire organisation toward that. I was just talking to the folks at Pendo. Earlier today, we’re going to do a little event next month here in Boston. And as you probably know, they are an analytics platform for measuring a lot of usage statistics and other things for your product. And they said I think what the discussion was, I think we both were saying that an easy way for product to justify their job is by looking at the business results is by saying we generate return on investment for the business by coordinating the effort cross functionally to focus everything on the numbers. That’s my speech and I’m sticking to it.

Mark Littlewood
Last, seeing who’s waving a hand. Any other see anything in the chat? Halina?

Audience Member
Yeah, I’d love to kind of hear your feedback on what you find the most successful in terms of engaging specifically I’m thinking about an engineering team like a lot of these things as you were going through what makes us a team I’m thinking okay, if you were to ask four people on my engineering team, this question you get a lot of different answers and do you find that it’s repetition certain styles of meetings one on ones like. What works the best? I scattered around but I’m not sure I know what sticks.
What works the best to what, engaged?

Audience Member
Like engage your to make a product lead organisation, especially from the engineering side, ensuring that they’re aligned with your message and that they care about it.

Bruce McCarthy
Despite their reputation, engineers are capable of empathy just like anybody else. And so I find that the number one trick for getting engineers to be engaged and passionate about the mission, and about thinking about the product, and not just about code quality, or, you know, polls or, or deployments are whatever is to get them together with customers, I know a lot of them will resist, there was no time for that my job is to write code, your job is to talk to the customer well, but nonetheless, bringing them along on even just a sprinkling of your customer calls, so that they get to hear firsthand what the customer’s job is, how they think about things, what they’re trying to accomplish. And where your product does or does not serve them is hugely educational for them. And it sort of changes their orientation to I’m sceptically listening to the product manager telling me some stuff that they probably made up to I, I heard directly from the customer that this part of the product is really frustrating. And now I’m motivated to go work on it, even better have them sit down on a usability test, they are so proud of their design, and then they put it in front of the customer and the customer gets two clicks in and goes, I have no idea what to do next. And that, you know, it’s a, it’s a head in the hands moment for them, they realise. I mean, if that happens once, they probably will just tell you the customer was too stupid for the product. But if it happens four times in a row, okay, we have to conclude that that the design is not designed for this customer. And judging their IQ is not it’s not going to help us with with getting more customers to, to use it.

Audience Member
Yeah, that’s really good feedback. Thank you.

Bruce McCarthy
That’s where it starts. I have found that that often changes, changes attitudes, quite a lot. The other thing is you can appeal to their greed, you know, we want to make the company successful. So your options are worth something.

Mark Littlewood
So a lot of the stuff we’ve been talking about today is quite soft. And people often make the mistake of thinking of soft stuff as being mushy and easy. But it’s just super important as we as we know, what do you have any kind of thoughts or any tips for celebrating some of the wins some of the things that product are doing within the wider organisation? And I guess that there’s a sort of couple of elements to that. I think, today, celebrating wins and celebrating success is great. But how can you celebrate that in a way that brings the other teams and an organisation along?

Bruce McCarthy
I think everybody’s always curious about what’s going on in the product side of things. Sometimes it feels a little like they’re isolated. And they’re like, What are those guys doing anyway? So giving them a peek into what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what effect it’s having, I think can be useful. The so there’s a natural curiosity sometimes about the product, but maybe not for everybody. So the bridge, in my mind is between what the product team are doing, what the product itself is, how it’s changing, or what the roadmap is, and the rest of the organisation is results. It’s those leading indicators I was talking about before, they don’t really care how many interviews you did. And the results in terms of dollars and cents may take a while. But it would be really great to be able to stand up in front of the company and say, before you get to your roadmap presentation, let me tell you what we did last quarter first, for context, we released these things. And here’s what we saw for results. We saw actually some problems over here with people dropping off. And we went and we talked to them and we figured out what the error was and we fixed it and now look at the numbers. And you’re training them to understand how you as a product team think and how you see your value as return on investment. Or for improving the work, the life, and the job of the product, of the of the customer, and also of the business results, you can, you may not be able to point to changes in the renewal rate in the short term, but you can say, ‘We believe this is will correlate with renewal rate, which is our ultimate goal, or retention or whatever it is.’ So, you’re hitting on things that, that everyone in the company probably does care about. And that is very non technical, you know, it’s very, it’s very understandable, we’re seeing people using the product more and this is good, this is going to spread it. And you could even have this came up earlier as well. Customer Support is usually should be anyway, a close cousin to product because they have a lot of intel about what what parts of the product people are using, and what parts of the product they are failing to use effectively. And that’s why they’re calling support. So you can also look at the change in numbers, you can say look, usage has gone up. But phone calls have gone down. So we’ve made it compelling and easy to us. That would be a good conversation, you could say, and phone calls have gone up to and now we’re working on it. But but you’re tying together what the product team does with the health and growth of the entire organisation. That’s how I would try to present it, not just do a demo of the latest whiz bang feature.

Mark Littlewood
Putting a play on that one, based on a conversation I had with a product manager at LinkedIn. When they redesigned their homepage some time ago. And they were celebrating the fact that people were clicking on the Help section of the website far, far less, you know, oh, that’s okay. That’s because the Help button on the homepage of the website was at the footer and they had an infinite scroll on the homepage. So you could never actually get down to the help, so yeah.

Bruce McCarthy
Yes, get calls to the to the 1800 number or down also because we took it off the website.

Mark Littlewood
Anyone, anyone calling with complaints? Caleb, did you have a question? I thought you were trying to catch attention earlier?

Audience Member
No, actually, I’m good. I was able to speak to Bruce and the other session. So good to go on my side. Appreciate the opportunity. That’s great.

Mark Littlewood
Okay, well, let’s think about, think about branding, rounding this up. But does anybody have any questions that they want to ask or any any more broad comments that might be interesting that you’d like to talk about?

Speak now forever hold your peace. So my final question, then to Bruce is what question do you want to ask on these fine product people?

Bruce McCarthy
Yeah. That’s a good question. So, I’ve started making some online courses, to complement the books and talks like this, and even live workshops, and online courses is the ability to be able to engage with some of my material on your own schedule. You can be supported in our online community. But it’s not a live event than you have to be there you miss out. And it’s more in depth and hands on than a book. I’m about to release one on product roadmaps based on my first book. And I’d be interested in learning and I’m thinking actively about what should be the next one. If you had to, if you had to vote, would you want an online course first in stakeholder management, or OKRs for product teams, or something else?Anybody have an opinion? You put something in chat, you can speak. Sharon.

Audience Member
The last time I asked for stakeholder management and the borough’s is writing a whole book for it. So I’m attending that training. But it all okay. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it’s very hard to choose.

Bruce McCarthy
So with Sharon’s verbal one, we have two votes for each. Looks like I have to do both.

Mark Littlewood
Yeah, that means to those two.

Audience Member
I’m not going to be any help because he doesn’t help you out because puts three on each, but I think they’re both key key areas, not sure which I’d like first, possibly this stakeholder management had to go for one.

Mark Littlewood
Yeah, I was gonna say if you had have both, which one do you want to do first?

Audience Member
Probably that’s stakeholder management, both key areas. Interesting.

Bruce McCarthy
Someone asks, in the chat, how do you make a product line utilise OKRs and align them to company OKRs? If you’ve got multiple products, who wasn’t that asked about that?

Mark Littlewood
Dave from Point of Rental. But he’s using, they’ve got a sort of a group viewing. Okay, struggling with mutes and things.

Bruce McCarthy
Is that a question? For right now? Would you like me to talk about that a little bit?

Audience Member
So sorry, you had asked about a further session. So that is specific to OKRs, for product teams. And one of the things we struggle with and I’ve read Christina waltz, radical focus. I’m fairly familiar with OKRs. But it’s always this idea of you have an organisational OKR. And then you want to align them. But how does an individual product team focused on a different geography a different segment, show their alignment of their OKRs? Up to a business one?

Bruce McCarthy
Yeah, good question. I think this is one of those top down versus bottom up sorts of questions. And the way I like to see it happen, the way I work with companies to make it happen is that the executive team starts by saying what are the company OKRs overall for the company. And then other teams, propose OKRs based on those, and based on their, their local understanding of those and how they might contribute. So essentially, it’s a proposal for how they might contribute to those company OKRs by doing a subset or doing something that is supportive or complimentary that they’re able to do. And then then the the job is, this is the stuff that usually gets forgotten for them to come together and reconcile those company level has said this, team level has said that, there’s probably not perfect alignment between them on the first go. So there needs to be a session where they actually come together and discuss and negotiate, and maybe some things change on one or both sides in order to align them better. I will say there are two important things. Two caveats to that. One is I don’t expect 100% alignment between the management. View and the team’s view, the management view cannot cover everything that the teams are doing, or should be doing. The, the OKRs at the company level are going to be ideally very few. And they’re about the big rocks, we need to move the big cross functional efforts that are going on in the company, the the sort of stuff that’s above and beyond just do your jobs, or and make your make your department successful and functional. And so it’s by design does not include everything. So therefore, not all the goals of every team are going to align, I’d say a top end goal is that on average, about 70% of the OKRs of a team would align with those of the company and the others are just local to what they need to do. The other caveat I would make is that the really best company level OKRs are cross functional. They are not easily broken down into our eye. Now the marketing team has their OKRs and the sales team has theirs and the engineering team has theirs. I don’t want at the company level one objective per department. That’s not That’s not a strategy. That’s just a list of things that people are going to do. So what that means is that the next level down is probably breaking down that problem into pieces that can be solved by a team. And that team might have members from cross functionally from all around the organisation. So I’m sorry, you were going to follow up with something on that question date.

Audience Member
Yeah, Bruce and this may get into the offline so much that it is worthy of a segment. So, you know, I think I completely agree and understand how the bottom up works from OKRs. Right, you get a cross functional team tied to an objective, making sure you have key results in the focus to execute against that. I think the issue becomes doing OKR at scale, when you get into a company that has multiple products, multiple business lines and multiple geographies, multiple different segments, how do you tie those bottom UPS into company level OKRs that aren’t so generic that they’re not all just financial? Right? How do you have meaningful OKRs? At a high level, you know, you’re $100 million company, you want 20% year over year growth? What do you set your company OKRs on that aren’t just you know, incredibly breakdown, when it gets down to the SMB function going into a new geography that aren’t just so high level that you know, nobody gets engaged, and then you lose the focus of OKRs. In general.

Bruce McCarthy
That’s hard. I would I work with a company that’s not unlike what you just described. And when they first started OKRs, they were all kind of financial, they were growth, and retention, and things like that. And when we ended up, we ended up actually retiring those as OKRs. And just having them be kind of health metrics, just having them be like, if we do everything, right, we should be on a path to project this much revenue, this much margin, etc. And in order to ensure that we are on that path, sure everybody needs to do their jobs. That’s not for OKRs. That’s just regular departmental performance metrics. But in order to achieve the to ensure that we do continue to achieve those health metrics, there are some very few large initiatives that we need to we need to align around across many teams, and they reserved their OKRs for those few things. And generally speaking, at any given time, this company has only two or three of these high level, company wide OKRs that not everybody, but most teams are contributing to in some way. Give you some real examples of those. They this particular company was having a problem with, with periodic outages or SaaS company. And so they, they created an objective for creating a higher level of confidence in their customers in their reliability. And then they had various measures of that including of course, uptime, and, and reference ability, and so on. And another one was that they really want to go from having their stuff implemented only by their own team, to leveraging partners, because it will unlock more growth for them, because their own services team of fixed size is a bottleneck to growth. So being able to scale by enabling partners was another cross functional thing that lots of teams needed to feed into product. Obviously, they got to make it easier for other teams to implement. But documentation and partnerships and training, all sorts of things. fell fell in under that. Does that help at all?

Audience Member
Yeah, like you said, it’s hard. It’s a big topic. And if there was a session done on that, we’d be happy to participate, etc. But yeah. Okay.

Bruce McCarthy
Terrific.

Mark Littlewood
Okay, thank you. Thank you very much, Bruce, I’ll just share a link to the talk you did in Europe, which goes into some of that stuff and a little bit more depth, although we’ve dived, as I expected, into slightly different things today, which is, which is great. Thank you so much for your time and wisdom. And it’s gonna say, patience on one level. I mean, I know you love talking to people and trying to help solve their problems. But then there’s also this thing where, you know, I know when you speak to teams, and I speak to teams, everyone kind of thinks they’re alone in this and they have this unique, screwed up organisation that’s never gonna work and sorted out. And I think one message that I would really encourage everybody to take away from today is that, you know, even the best product teams in the world have challenges and they have, they have sort of times when it’s hard, it’s hard for them and if we and play a little part in making it easier for you fabulous but Thank you Bruce was great as ever really appreciate it.

Bruce McCarthy
My pleasure and thanks everyone for your questions really enjoyed it.

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Bruce McCarthy

Bruce McCarthy

Founder, Product Culture

Bruce founded Product Culture to help communicate the key principles underlying consistently successful product-focused organizations.

He and his team help companies like NewStore, Camunda, hyperexponential, Socure, and Toast achieve their product visions through Advising, Accelerator programs, and the Product Culture Community. Bruce is a serial entrepreneur and team leader. He literally wrote the book on roadmapping: Product Roadmaps Relaunched: How to Set Direction While Embracing Uncertainty. His next book, Aligned: Stakeholder Management for Product Leaders is expected summer 2024.

His previous talks at BoS Conference have been instrumental in helping our attendees unblock some of the significant challenges that all companies face as they grow. You can watch them here.


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