Product Leaders Competencies

Product Managers, Product Designers and Product Engineers A typical cross-functional product team requires three specific and very distinct skill sets. Usually that means at least three people, but sometimes a single person is able to cover multiple skill sets, or in certain specific cases, the particular product may only require two of the skill sets.

Recall that when solving problems for our customers or our business, we need to come up with solutions that our customers love, yet work for our business.
In order to discover an effective solution, the team is responsible for addressing four different types of risks:

  • Value Risk: will the customer buy our solution, or choose to use it?
  • Viability Risk: will this solution work for our business? Is it something we can effectively and legally get to market, sell, service, fund, and monetize?
  • Usability Risk: can the user easily learn, use and perceive the value of the solution?
  • Feasibility Risk: do we know how to build and scale this solution, with the staff, time, technology, and data we have?

In a cross-functional product team, these are the critical competencies and what each is responsible and accountable for:

  • The Product Manager is responsible for the value and viability risks, and overall accountable for the product’s outcomes.
  • The Product Designer is responsible for the usability risk, and overall accountable for the product’s experience – every interaction our users and customers have with our product.
  • The Product Lead Engineer is responsible for the feasibility risk, and overall accountable for the product’s delivery.

It’s also true that each of these three competencies can contribute to all aspects of the solution, but it’s important to know who specifically is responsible for each risk.
As you’ll see in the upcoming articles, the skills required to develop each of these competencies are substantial.

Product Ops

Your product teams need to be able to quickly and effectively make decisions based on data (quantitative), and based on interacting with users and customers (qualitative).
A small Product Operations competency (referred to as “product ops”), staffed with data analysts and user researchers, can accelerate the work of your product teams.

Product Leaders

The product leaders are the managers of product management, product design, and product engineering.
These are the people who will need to recruit, onboard, coach and develop the actual product managers, product designers, and product engineers.
In addition to building and coaching the product teams, these product leaders have critical responsibilities related to creating a compelling and inspiring product vision, an insight-driven product strategy, and a carefully crafted team topology.
More generally, these leaders are responsible for ensuring that the product organization is aligned with the broader company in pursuing the best opportunities, and addressing the most serious threats.
This is why the people you select as your product leaders will very likely prove critical to your transformation efforts.
If you don’t yet have product leaders with the necessary skills and experience, then our first choice is to recruit them and get them in place for the kick-off of our transformation work.
That said, in many companies, the product leaders have some but not all of the necessary experience, and we can temporarily supplement their knowledge with the help of external product leadership coaches.