Product Management in Your Organization & How to Find the Perfect Fit

With Product Management being in high-demand, many businesses are asking what the optimal Product Department structure is for their company. However, coming up with an answer to what will work best for your company is not so simple.

The first thing to take note of is that Product Management is not a passing fad. Having a PM department is crucial to the composition of your company, and will be necessary now and in the future for producing delight and solutions for your customers.

Secondly, what is suitable often depends on the size of your business. How the department will function will largely be determined by the number of teams and employees already existing in the business. Additionally, the number of products your business is pushing will have an impact on what is the ideal balance of PMs in your company.

Of course, there are compounding factors that will ultimately decide what works and what doesn’t. Understanding the basics of Product Management fit, however, will be a guide to knowing what is a correct or incorrect approach to creating the ultimate PM department for your business.

The Quick Answer

Certain schools of thought will say that there should be a strict number of PMs with a designated number of team members. While this is a very specific method, this formula can be functional with certain businesses. This is the proposed structure:

  • 1 Product Manager per 8 Developers
  • 1 Marketing Manager per Market
  • 1 “North Star” per product team

Again, building your department around this model is based on the size of your company. Startups, for example, will likely not have the manpower to manage this type of arrangement. For a business that does have the capital, this structure requires lateral and vertical management. This is to say that you as a PM will be managing teams and departments horizontally, while also moving updates and accomplishments up to C-suite executives.

Having all this in mind, for those who are opting for this strategy, you must be thorough with evaluating all aspects of their company. This includes stricter definitions of roles (if this hasn’t already been done), establishing hard lines of communication, and solidifying each North Star per product department.

The Longer Answer

Of course, there are going to be companies who want a different format for their product departments. This makes perfect sense given that almost every organization has a different goal, as well as different strategies for achieving these goals. Because of this, there are numerous examples from established businesses on how they went about forming their PM departments. Here are two commonly seen ones:

THE TWO PIZZA RULE

The two pizza rule was introduced by industry juggernaut Amazon. The theory behind this revolves around the idea that teams should not be bigger than what it would take to feed a group with two pizzas. This is used to keep team numbers low to maximize individual independence and encourage innovation.

This method also aims to eliminate roadblocks by minimizing complications of high overhead. In short, communication is more easily facilitated when group numbers are held to six members or fewer.

Product Managers who operate in teams like this will often be charged with a role that may be somewhat more expansive than in teams with greater numbers. This is to say that you will work slightly less horizontally here, and work more hands-on with development and deliverables. Additionally, there will be less focus on dealing with roadblocks from other departments, and a greater attention to detail on managing the goals specifically within your team.

THE SQUAD MODEL

Spotify is know for creating this style of Product Team construction, and they have since racked up a lot of attention with this method. The way they describe this model is a disruption in traditional Scrum processes, and a reinvention of agile team culture.

The Squad Model describes multiple teams of equal or less than eight people. Within these teams, focus is placed on autonomy, cross-functionality, and on end-to-end responsibility. These all add up to achieving the goal of the Squad’s “Long Term Mission“.

In addition, valuing autonomy allows for optimal collaboration due to the fact that it is motivating, fast, and eliminates factors that may slow productivity.

If you are considering this model, you are likely in a business that can support large employee overhead. For hiring managers, this means that you have to consider bringing on numerous Product Managers, Agile Coaches (Scrum Masters), and a host of other players to fill the roles in. Another consideration could be “upskilling” existing employees to be Product Management leaders who can fill the positions within the squads.

For product managers, entering an organization that pushes this method, you will need certain skills in order to succeed. Clearly, collaboration will be a major priority, but this style of collaboration will require placing faith in your colleagues’ autonomous style of working. You’ll also need to be quick with decisions, focused on many short term goals, and dedicated to streamlining your efforts towards executing the long term goal as swiftly as possible.

The Final Fit

Determining how you will ultimately structure your Product Team will no doubt take time and some testing. The PM department methods that have been highlighted won’t work for every business, but trying new strategies will help uncover what will be best for your company.

It is also important to note that there are a widening range of strategies that Product gurus are testing. Product Management will evolve in tandem with technology, and there will without a doubt be innovations in how to create the optimal Product Department.

Have some notes on Product Management fit? Do you use a different method that everyone should know about? Let us know! Drop a line on our Slack Channel.

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