- JJ Rorie
Five Dysfunctions of Product Teams
Saeed Khan joins to discuss five dysfunctions common across product teams. These include:
1. Poor Job Definitions
2. Under-skilled Product Managers
3. Poor Processes
4. Unclear Objectives
5. Weak Product Leadership
Saeed provides amazing insights on these common issues and ways to overcome them.
product, product managers, people, company, objectives, management, leader, understand, dysfunctions, job, problem, teams, process, organizations, hire, outcomes, understanding, sales, skills, job descriptions
Welcome to Product Voices, a podcast where we share valuable insights and useful resources to help us all be great in product management. Visit the show's website to access the resources discussed on the show, find more information on our fabulous guests or to submit your product management question to be answered in our special q&a episodes. That's all at product voices.com. And be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite platform. Now, here's our host, JJ Rorie, CEO of Great Product Management.
Hello, and welcome to Product Voices. Today's topic is about the five product management team dysfunctions. Well, there may be more than five, but we'll find that out. So I'm excited for this conversation. My guest is Saeed Khan. He's founder of Transformation Labs. He's been in product management since ancient times. No, I'm kidding. He made me say that he's not that old. But he is very experienced. And I'm really excited about the conversation. Saeed, thanks for joining me.
Thanks, JJ. And yeah, ancient times is okay. It was you know, the previous millennium, so.
Okay, there you go. Hey, I'm with you. I feel Yeah, I'm, I'm feeling very experienced these days. So. So let's talk about your five dysfunctions of a product management team. I've read an article that you wrote about it, and I loved it. So first of all, tell me how you started to notice these dysfunctions across teams? And, and I'm curious, did you only see five dysfunctions?
Seems like a small number, right? So the work that I do, I work as a consultant and a product consultant, I work with technology and software companies, and, you know, I, I work with companies that have problems, right? Because if their problems, you know, are minor, or things are going really well, they don't need my help. And so, in short, as you go into companies, and part of the, you know, big part of any job is pattern matching, but you started looking and seeing and observing, and in trying to identify what the core issues are, and, and there's never just one, but there's a bunch of interrelated ones. And what I saw over the years was that there were a bunch of common problems. And you know, it's kind of funny, because when you're working with someone, and and, you know, they they start seeing all the issues, and they're living those issues, and, and they feel like, am I the only one like, is everyone else doing great, and we're the only one and and I have to be honest and tell customers know that you're not? You're absolutely not, in fact, you're not even the worst companies I've seen. But but the patterns are there. And I think they're industry patterns. And I think there's a lot of room for improvement. So, you know, these five were sort of the most common ones. But yes, there are more than five, I think,
unfortunately, unfortunately. Okay, so let's talk about about your five dysfunctions. I'll go through each one, let's talk about the first one that you identified poor job definitions. Tell me more about that one?
Sure. So first of all, everyone who works in product knows that you can go from company to company, and the job of product management is quite different, right? In some cases, it's, it's just very delivery focus. In some cases, it's I don't know, it's just not even delivery focus. It's sort of do whatever people tell you to do. And in other cases, it's actually a very broad, holistic, strategic, etc. Right. So, and if I look back in my own career, I had some great jobs and some really not so great jobs. And, and so this idea of poor job definitions, and I use the word definitions, as opposed to descriptions, right, so everyone can look on Indeed, or wherever in find job descriptions of product manager jobs, and those are horrible as well. But to me, those are a symptom of the problem. You know, the job descriptions are this unicorn person who's strategic and technical and business and, you know, tactical and can roll up their sleeves, but can talk to executives, etc, etc, etc. It's, it's, you know, as some people describe this unicorn kind of role. But underlying that, I think, is a misunderstanding or lack of understanding of what product management really is by companies, and then how they perceive the duties to be and that's where I get into job definition, like, you know, what is it at heart that people are being hired to do as product managers, and what are the responsibilities they'll have? And then what are the needed skills in abilities in when you really dig into that? You see that in most cases, and, you know, obviously, there's exceptions, but in most aces, it's either very weak understanding, or it's just not even there at all right? They, they have cookie cutter job descriptions that they've, you know, copied from another company and modified for their needs or something. But they haven't really thought about, what, what is it that we really want them to do? How will we measure success? Even after a year, like, let alone longer term? And then what real skills are needed? And how should we interview for that? So that whole definition of what we're looking for how we're going to find it, how we're going to assess it, is really poorly understood. And so, so that's kind of in a way, the first problem, which is, when you hire someone with a lack of definition, and a lack of understanding what you're going to get when they come on board, are you going to get that, you know, exact person that you need? Are you gonna get some poor approximation of what you need. Yeah, that's I'll stop there. But that's, that's sort of what you know, that whole understanding of what's needed and how you get it is, I think, poorly executed.
Yeah, absolutely. I can see that. And then, like you said, then that permeates and so many other areas, because you haven't clearly defined it in the first place. So you get something that you weren't expecting, but it's because those expectations weren't clear. So definitely something and I liked the way you've, you've kind of couched the way that companies can avoid this dysfunction, right? By finding, you know, clearly defining it, how you're going to assess it, how you're going to, you know, how you're going to find it, how you're going to assess it as it as it goes. So, not always easy to do, but at least the framework is there. Right. And the problem that I have found with dysfunctions of any kind is that it's not clear how to avoid it.
Yeah, well, the way the way I, I sort of worked with clients on this is I asked them, Okay, you know, let's just think about the first six months to a year. So you're hiring someone, what are they going to be doing for the first six months to a year because people can think about that they they sort of have a vision of okay, at least in the first six months to a year, this is what we're, we're going to be focused on, right? They might not know beyond that. But But then it's okay. So you know, your product may be an early stage product. So you probably need someone who can do a lot of discovery and kind of shape, you know, the vision and the product, or, you know, maybe it's a much more mature product. So what, what you're looking for something else, right? So people can think about that. And then I asked them, what's the success look like for that product manager a year from now? Right? What would you love to be able to say that product manager accomplished because you're hiring them, and you're going to put them to work on something and, and people can can generally kind of describe that, right? It's not perfect, but they can do that. And that those two questions really help people kind of focus in right on, on, okay, then these are the things we're going to need in as opposed to this again, this unicorn, well, who knows what they'll do, they might do everything, they might do this, they might do that. And then and then then we can break it down from there, like if they're doing discovery, and it's an early stage product and their skills and knowledge that they'll need. And then you can kind of break that down into a clear job definition, right. And then same thing with a more mature product, you can break that down into a clear job definition is, it's really focused on the first year, but you know what, by the time they get to the end of the first year, you'll have a really great understanding of what they need to do next. So you can evolve it from there. So that's the kind of thing I try and help people do is just think of it from those fundamental perspectives, shape it. And then and then the nice thing is, if they do that, well, they can use that as an assessment of the person maybe after six months or after a year, right? Because they've actually thought about what they're expecting the person to do in any way. Yeah, what I've seen is that helps bring clarity, as opposed to, we don't know how to do this. Let's just copy someone else's job description.
Yeah, such great advice is just really D scoping, focusing on the first six months to a year and then go from there. I think that's, that's really sound advice. So let's move on to the second dysfunction of product teams, under skilled product managers. Oh, this is a big one. Tell me about that.
Yeah, so this, I mean, to a certain string since this ties back to the first one, but but even on its own. So first of all, just quite frankly, you know, and I include myself in this in my first product management roles. You know, we didn't we didn't come out of university or any explicit educational program that taught us product management, right. Like, you know, if you're, if you're a software developer, you went through computer science or some some engineering program or something, you learned a lot of the skills for product management, that's not the case. And so everybody in you know, with, with maybe a few exceptions now, because there's a few educational programs, but pretty much everybody comes in having to learn the role in some way or another in in and there, there are a lot of really important but also complex skills that you need. Right. So as an example, I'll go back to discovery, how do you do proper customer research? Right? And it's qualitative research and quantitative, you might have learned a little bit of a quantitative analysis in school, but you know, formal quantitative and qualitative research, very few of us have done that. And yet, it's core to a job, right? How do you understand how to manage cross functionally? How do you understand negotiation, you know, the knowledge of the domain that you're in, whether it's, you know, a technical domain, or business domain, or whatever. So there's all these all these skills in abilities that are required to do the job. And we don't learn them in advance. And so we have to learn on the job. And it's, it's a game of ketchup. And I think, you know, every product manager suffers from this on some level, I see it all the time. And, and I see very intelligent, well educated, you know, generally competent, I'm not, I'm not saying they're incompetent or anything, but they don't have those basics on how to do a lot of this work like roadmapping. You go from company to company, and roadmapping is just like, it's, it's an alphabet soup, right? Like, in some cases, people are doing it sort of well, and in some cases, well, whatever we, we have in our backlog and you know, that's our roadmap, like, it doesn't, it doesn't work, and yet, and yet, roadmapping, as a strategic exercise is actually incredibly important, and incredibly valuable. So I think I think this, this idea of product managers having a lot of responsibility, yes, they do. But do they have the skills and the knowledge to do their job? Well, is not the case, in many cases. And, you know, I think companies need to understand that and then support them in whatever ways we need it. I think you hire someone, I just I was speaking to someone yesterday, he's doing some work in the government, in the government department that he's working with, just hired 40, roughly, product managers. All of them are brand new to product management. Now think about that.
That's gonna be a fun department.
Well, part of his job is to train them, which is good. But frankly...
I love it. I mean, let me let me state for the record. I think we, we collectively, hiring managers in product, rely too heavily on product management experience, and don't give new people the chance to learn because as you said, it's such a varied skill set that it's, it's really hard. It's a hard job, but it's hard to find someone who's going to be perfect in that job. It just doesn't happen. And so why not take that take the chance on somebody people and bring them in? So I think that's really cool that they're doing that.
Yeah, no, I'm not criticizing them for doing that. What I'm saying is, though, think about that, like 40 people, all new to product management, someone's going to train them, but, you know, how are they being assessed? Right? How are they? Are you going to know that they're coming along, at a pace and with a, you know, sort of progression? That's helpful? I think that like, so when you have, again, it's it's that issue of how do you measure what their contribution are, what their output is, right? What are they really doing? And, you know, there's, there's, like sales, it's immediate, you know, this quarter, next quarter, etc, you see the results. And you can measure it marketing, same thing, right? Engineering, the output is very clear, right, the quality of their code and their hope and all that, with product management. It's not in you don't see the impact, until quite a ways down the line. And I think that's, that's always the challenge is how do you look at them today, see what they're doing today, understand where the gaps are, and then address those gaps in a meaningful way. And it's a hard task, but it I think it can be done, but it needs again, diligence, it needs a way to measure and then the way to address in, you know, I mean, it's in a sense, it's how do you product manage the product managers?
Yeah, yeah, that's a great way to say it. And it's a really important perspective. Just, you know, how, how are you gonna go about that and manage them. And I loved that that point about how other roles tend to have a more immediate view of the impact and how product management doesn't always have that. And I think that's part of the problem. I don't know that that's recognized as, as clearly as how you stated it. So I think that's a great way to say it, but I think that is part of the problem sometimes in in even even defining back to the first one defining the role and then assessing the role. So that's, that's, that's really awesome, awesome perspective there. So let's move to the third one. And I can imagine that this being, you know, somewhat tied to to the others that you've mentioned, but tell me about your thoughts. dysfunction, which is poor processes.
Yeah. So every time I mentioned this, people are like, oh process Come on, like just their eyes roll. But the reality is everybody, everybody engineering, has them sales absolutely has the marketing has them, you know, finance as them. Process is fundamental to business. And in process means a predefined, you know, sort of set, I'll say, set of steps, but it's a predefined pathway to achieve whatever outcomes you want, right? And you want repeatable outcomes, right? You you want your books to look to be correct, every quarter, not just some quarters, you know, what I mean? Like, there are things finance does, and that, you know, kind of guarantees that the books are well, you know, formed every quarter, right? You can trust the numbers every quarter, right? Sales may be a bit loose on process sometimes, but I've worked with sales organizations, and they've got, you know, weekly funnel reviews, right, they've got a process for logging their calls and opportunities and things like that, like, you know, in some well run organizations, you can go into Salesforce, and you can look in an account, and you can clearly see the progression or lack thereof, of any particular opportunity. So this idea of process and a no part of it is this comes from the Agile world, you know, of like, well, you need really good teams, and you let them do what they do. And, yeah, sure, I mean, if you have really good teams who know what to do, and they get it done great, like, no problem. Like, if you have button, I would say and I'll just picking number on the air, but like 90% of companies don't have that. Like seriously, like 90% companies don't have these really great teams that no, I've worked in a company I chose funny. And there were two dev teams, and the company was a really well run company. And one team was like that they weren't great. Like, I just, I just knew, like, when I spoke to the dev manager, and I, you know, heard what they're doing. I knew they were on the ball. And then the other team was the exact opposite. And their product showed it like it was buggy and unstable. And, you know, even just basic things weren't working right. And not that the people on there weren't competent. They weren't, they weren't, they were as experienced as the other team. But there was something intangible about the two teams that lead to completely different outcomes. So what I'm saying is, when we come to product management, we want to have repeatable positive outcomes, right? And the only way you're gonna get that because people change, right? You can organizational change, and things like that, is by clearly understanding how to do things in sort of steps you can follow. And it's not like, oh, there's a binder with 100 pages, and you're on section 3.7. Point two. But when you're doing discovery, right, how do you actually do discovery? Well, how do you identify what you really need to learn? Right? How do you form questions? Well, how do you identify who you need to talk to you? How do you interview them? Well, how do you record the results? How do you analyze the results? Right? How do you pull that out, and then bring it back, share it, and make it into something that the company can leverage, like, that whole set of steps, forms a process, and if you know how to do it, well, then you will get better results, you can go through that whole process and end up with just nothing. Well, we interviewed people, and we, you know, took some notes, and we tried to analyze it. And you know, we didn't really learn anything. So the idea is, is understand these important things. roadmapping is another one prioritization and planning is another one, you know, how you how do you optimize post launches, another one, etc, how you do business planning, etc, all these big ticket things, right? need to be understood as a process. And the process has a defined set of steps you follow? There's variation in there, of course, but you need to do that. And like any other function, if you can't define what you're doing, as as a set of steps as an identifiable set of steps, then you don't have a process. You don't know what you're doing. So I think I think that people tend to pupae it. But I think really understanding the process and what you're doing leads to better outcomes, right? It's not that oh, we'll just drive for outcomes. Sure, if you can do it. But how can you repeat it? Can you scale it? So that's what I mean. I see this in a lot of companies where they seem to get an idea of the steps to follow but their outcomes aren't there. And it's because they don't actually understand the things they have to do specifically to move things forward.
Yeah, and I completely agree with you that it seems like processes like literally just the term and the end The idea behind it is looked poorly upon these days and I get it, I get where, where some of that comes from, but to your point, it's about consistency. It's about scalability in so many cases, and, you know, and not having at least some level of process or playbook as I like to call it, for some reason that semantics works a little bit better. You know, when people know, if you have to make this decision, you need, you know, these people involved, you need this workstream you know, you need this data and you go forward. Well, look,
yeah, look at scrum as an example. Right. So as much as agile is about, you know, sort of people over process and all that like, Scrum is pretty, you know, there's a lot of process in Scrum. And, yeah, there's things you do, and people don't seem to have a problem going, Yeah, we will break things up into two week sprints. And we'll do this at the beginning of the sprint, and then we'll have retrospective after and we'll track things this way. And we'll do this and then people don't seem to have a problem with that. And yet, that's very process centric, right? And, you know, we won't get started on safe or anything, but ever, ever, we're anti process, don't go don't go look at safe. But you know what, like, it has its benefits in some cases. And I'm not advocating, oh, product manager needs to do say for anything, but I'm just saying that everywhere you look around process is something that has benefits. And I think it's been given a bad name, but product management needs to understand that and define that in the context where it's helping create better product outcomes,
completely agree. So let's move to the next one. Your your fourth team dysfunction in product is unclear objectives. Talk about that one.
So this one, it's funny, I, I have this exercise. And I, I asked when they work with product managers, and I'll ask them, What is the objective of Product Management? And, and I would recommend anyone listening this, just try it with their own teams, you know, if you have 23456, whatever, people just individually ask people that, and you'll probably get 23456 different answers. And it's funny, because if you say What's the objective of sales? Like, it's pretty clear, what's the object from marketing is pretty clear. And so, first of all, I think people don't understand what really the overall objective of product management is. And I think that's a problem. Right? Like, you know, you'll get answers varying from delivery related answers to some strategic kind of high level fluffy answer to something else, right. And, and I'm not, I'm not criticizing anyone for having a particular answer. But the fact that there isn't a common understanding of the objective of product management, by product managers, even by product managers working in the same company, is is really problematic. And I did this once with a team of seven. And I did in a survey had a bunch of questions. I was doing a workshop with them. And then at the at the workshop I just posted, here's, here's what you gave me as an answer this question. And I didn't put names on it, because I didn't know they're anonymous, but I just said, What do you notice about this? And someone said, they're all different. And, and so anyway, like the It starts there. And then when you get into the work itself, you ask product managers, what are your what objectives are you working towards, with your product? And in in many cases, they don't know or the objective is something that is far out of their control. And I've been in this situation myself, where we had a revenue objective, right, your product has a revenue target of x, and you're kind of handed that down from above. And sometimes it's reasonable, and sometimes it's not. But then you have to sort of forgot how to work towards that. But I think I think business objectives are important, that's what revenue is, is a business objective. And absolutely, you know, product supports the business, right? Like product success means business success. But I think product managers also need to have clear product objectives. And I think that's a different discussion that needs to be happening, but they need to be clear and the way the way I look at a set, you don't have control over sales. So that revenue target is not really something you can attain, right? Because the work you're doing today is not going to affect revenue tomorrow, like it's going to affect revenue, you know, downstream at some point. But if you have product objectives that support those business objectives, or are aligned with them, then it's a lot easier to work towards that and I think in in SAS, it's a lot easier to because, you know, you can look at things like onboarding issues or retention issues or something else. And you can you can kind of make the connection between the person product in the objective. But I think in other cases, a lot of on premise software still exists, devices, lots of other product categories, you know, even inside of it in organizations, people are building products for consumers or like a banking app or something. And understanding what are the objectives for those apps really needs to be clear. So if you're not working towards clear objectives, then what are you working towards? Right? It's usually something like shipping, which I think is a terrible objective on its own to have like, our goal is to ship on time. Okay. And then what's next? Ship? More stuff on time?
Yeah, who cares? If it's the right stuff? It's just ship stuff? Yeah.
Like it's the right stuff. But also, that's not product management, that's delivery management, and it's a different job. And I think it's, it's unfair to think of people and tell them their product managers, when they're not like, tell them what they are like your delivery manager, this is what your responsibility is, and, and you might say, Oh, well, maybe I don't want that job. Right. Like, it's kinda like going, you're a salesperson. But what's your job? Well, you're actually generating leads, you're doing outbound calling, but you're not closing deals, well, okay, then you're not a salesperson. So, like, I just think that, again, these things all tie together, the poor definitions, and the skills and all that stuff, all of them relate. And I think the best way to get benefit out of product management is to tie their objectives to company objectives and have clarity between them in clear connection. And that requires executives to, you know, do some thinking and make some decisions. But I think it's for the benefit of the company. And so I think it's their responsibility, you know, and if the executive team isn't doing it, and the product leader should do at the VP of product, or, you know, head of product, or whatever, they should be really advocating for that and moving product management. In that, you know, you know, it's funny product management, people talk about it, but it's product, and then management thing, you know, if you say, what's the management in product management? That's another good question asked, like, What's the objective of Product Management? And then what's the what's the management part of Product Management? And you get, again, a variety of answers. But, you know, it's, it should be driving product success and product success means, whatever the product objectives are, that support the business objectives. And that's how you connect the two. And I think that, without that, you're you're at a loss and, and sort of helping the business move forward.
Yeah, I really appreciate that. And one of the things that you said really jumped out to me, which is, and I want to just bring it up again, because I think it's so important, we often in product, try to, to replicate what someone else does. And you you mentioned something to to this extent, or earlier in the conversation, you know, just recreate what what someone else does, right? Whether it's a job description, or or process or anything else, right. And so, you mentioned how, you know, occasionally you can, in a SaaS product, for example, you might be able to tie product activities to, to revenue a little more, still not that they necessarily should put that objective on their PMS, but but it may be more possible. But there are so many companies out there, like you said, that it's that's just not possible, there's the sales cycle is different, that you know, everything around it is just not possible to kind of have that one to one, or even, you know, even broader than that direction, or, you know, direct line to revenue. And so, but companies will do it, you know, they'll say, they'll see somebody out there that says, you know, this company is successful in product, and they do this, and they have this objective. So I'm going to put that on my PMS too. And we need to make sure that it works for our environment. Right. And I don't think enough product teams and product leaders do that quite yet.
Yeah, in this this kind of, I don't want to get ahead of ourselves. But this does lead to the final dysfunction in my mind.
Let's this is a good segue. So finish your thought there in the context, also of the fifth one being weak product leadership.
Yeah. So I put this last week product leadership I in a way I wanted to put it first. Because I think it's it's one of the biggest, if not the biggest problem that I run across and, and it's interesting. So when I used to work as a product manager, I had a couple of really great managers, my very first product manager, I think about it in the more I I kind of looked back at that job that was such a formative, Pivotal job for me because it was in a small company here in Toronto. But when I joined us about 70 people it grew to about 150. After a couple of years. In we had they had hired this guy who's VP of marketing and product managers funny so This is how long ago it was, we were part of marketing, right, there was no product organization. And which was fine, though, and his name was Dwayne. And he was amazing. He understood product management, he understood marketing, he, you know, good grasp of technology. And he was one of these mentor type of leaders, like, you know, this is, again, an old reference. But if anyone remembers the movie Wall Street with Charlie Sheen, there was a character in the movie, he was this older gentleman played by Hal Holbrook. And he would kind of come over and whisper some words of wisdom to Charlie when things were not looking good. And, and I always think back that Dwayne was sort of like that Hal Holbrook character, like, he wasn't telling me what to do, and he wasn't micromanaging me. But when I needed help, he would call me into his office, and he could tell, and we'd have a great conversation, and he'd kind of give me direction, and then I go off and kind of do what I need to do. And, and, and that the company itself was well run, Dwayne was a great manager. And I did so much in that company that kind of was the basis for my future. And I look back, I go, like maybe two or three jobs later, if I had that manager, it's my first manager in product management, I might have left product management, you know, like, it was the complete opposite. And so the point I'm trying to make is that, like, there are people like Dwayne around, but I think there's very few of them. I think that a lot of leaders in product management, have not come up through the ranks and done the work. You know, they're, they're an executive, and they, you know, like I when, when customer, I worked with the product manager, and reported to the VP of Operations, and the VP of Operations didn't know anything about product management, and that was sort of like, how is she going to guide them? How is she going to, you know, kind of see when they need help and give them the help they need? Right? I mean, she was very earnest about her work and you know, wanted to do things, right. But it wasn't going to help the product manager. So I think that if you have weak leadership in any role, you know, we can make the analogy, if you had a sales leader who had never done sales, or marketing leader who had never done marketing, what is that going to mean? Right? Like, you can't imagine how bad that would be right? Like, would you ever hire a VP of Sales who never a day in their life, worked as a salesperson, like, I don't think I've heard of an example that I saw one company where the head of sales, sorry, the head of marketing, had never done any marketing before. And not only was it really bad for morale. But it was not good for the marketing people themselves, like, you know, lack of direction, lack of focus, lack of all these things. So, you know, product management is cross functional. If you believe that product management is important to the success of your company, why would you hire a leader who's never done that? Right? smart person, very capable, very competent person, but doesn't know the details, doesn't understand the patterns, doesn't understand, you know, the ways of doing things, you know, getting back to the unskilled product managers, if you hire someone, and they have gaps, and you know, everyone has gaps in their skills, who's going to mentor them? Who's going to show them right? Who's going to be that Dwayne, to say, Hey, I see you're struggling, let me help you here. Let me show you what need to do, or let's discuss some problems and ways to do it. Right. So I think, and then how, you know, the other side of leadership is leading, like at the leadership level, right? How are they advocating for the group in the company? are they arguing for the right things? You know, engineering and sales often have a disproportionate amount of influence at the executive table? Is the product leader going to be able to push back and push back with evidence and, you know, like, to do the right things from a product perspective? Or are they going to be pushed down and be told what to do or dominated? So I think that if you want real product success, then you need a real product leader. And I'm not I'm not trying to disparage anyone. But I think it's just, to me a fundamental issue. And you think of any situation when you think of who leads an organization. It's always somebody with the right set of skills, hopefully, right, the leader of a captain of a sports team or anything else, any other group. It's somebody who's understands what needs to be done and can get the job done. So I look at it from that perspective. And I think that weak leadership is a problem. I think that there's a real shortage of really good leaders in the industry. I think companies don't do it intentionally. I think they they try and do the right thing, but they don't realize the implications. And I think that people need to really think it through through and and tie that back into all the others like, are they going to hire the right people? Are they going to be able to mentor them? Are they going to be able to put in processes? Are they going to have an understanding what objectives need to be set and how to achieve them? Right? All these five things tie together. And this one, I think, is the most pivotal. And
yeah, and one of the things are a couple of things that I actually see and agree with you 100% On is kind of the the reasons behind sometimes weak product leadership is is number one to your point. Organizations still have this thought it and people within organizations still have this thought that product management can be done by anyone in and I'm being a little dramatic for effects there. But but you know, they they they lessen the impact, or they discount the impact of product reminds me of a conversation I was having with a product leader one time, and he worked at a health care company and health insurance type of organization. And he made a statement, something to the effect of, you know, nobody would go to the actuary department and say, Hey, I've got this idea for this new model of how we're going to, you know, manage our risk. But people come to us all the time and say, Hey, I got some ideas about how we can build this product. Right? Yeah. And it's, it's, I mean, it happens all the time, right. And the second thing is that, to your point, you need to have some product expertise. Well, not everyone who's a great product manager is a great leader, right? A great leader of their peers, a great leader of people. And so there's those two sides of things. And again, that can be said for for any role, you know, an individual contributor doesn't equate to a great leader, necessarily, but organizations have to not only find folks who understand product, but also build them up and coach them up to be good leaders. And that's just not always a, you know, an equation that works so well. So I agree. And to your last point, the product leadership, I mean, that that ties so closely to the other dysfunctions that you've, you've identified that there really is kind of a latticework amongst all of these.
Yeah. I mean, that's, that's, that's why it was like, torn between putting it first or you know, where to put it in, because they all connect, but this one really impacts all of them. And yeah, you know, something else, just something I didn't include in the article. And, you know, one of the dysfunctions is just organizations themselves of companies, they don't understand product management, and you know, you don't expect people to understand it, you know, in depth. But if you have weak product leadership, and who's going to help the company understand it, right, like, you know, who's going to be pushing for, for certain things, like people talk about empowered teams, and all these things well, don't, don't think the company's just gonna go and figure that out on its own, somebody has to advocate for that, and, and say, These are the kinds of practices we need to implement, to help drive the outcomes we want, right? And no one's going to sort of listen to the product leader, if the product leader doesn't know what they're talking about, like, I I've seen this in several companies were like, in one company, a friend of mine worked. And the head of product was a lawyer who was a friend of the CEO, and came in because he was a smart guy, and the CEO trusted him. But he had no understanding of how to build software, like, had never even worked in a software company, let alone, you know, he was a lawyer. So, you know, maybe he should have been the General Counsel, but but these, these are the kinds of things that people need to understand. You can't just put anybody in there. And even people who are put in there need to need to be supported, right? Like, just because you have someone who, like you said, you know, someone who was an individual contributor, you can, you can make them a leader, because, you know, they're great, they understand what needs to be done, but they need support as a leader because the jump from individual contributor manager to leader is significant, right? You have to change how you think and operate and, and so on, you're working with a complete different set of information. And that that's, that's not easy for people. So I think this week, leadership is probably the first problem to kind of think about for companies, but it's not the only one. But I think if you have a strong leader than the other ones, can be tackled much more, you know, sort of directly,
completely agree. So just to recap, the five product management team dysfunctions are poor job definitions, under skilled product managers, poor processes, unclear objectives, and weak product leadership. Syed Khan, thank you so much for joining me and for sharing your wisdom around this subject. I appreciate you being here.
Thank you very much, JJ. Thanks for having me.
And thank you all for joining us on product voices. Hope to see you on the next episode.
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