Product teams, like all teams, tend to move through a series of phases from the time the team is assembled to when the team is executing optimally on the product scope. One model of group development identifies four phases: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.
In the Forming phase, the team comes together to discuss and understand the product project and resulting goals. Mature teams or teams that have already worked together on past projects often move from the Forming phase directly to the Norming and then Performing phases, where the team is operating cohesively toward the overall product goals. However, the team often passes through a Storming phase where friction and conflict arise.
One common source of conflict is misunderstanding about the roles and responsibilities of the product team members. Spending time when the team is formed, or when there’s a personnel change, to have a discussion on the different roles, who does what, and the expectation that each role has of the other roles will go a long way toward eliminating this source of team conflict.
Common technology product team members often include a Product Manager, a Program or Project Manager, an Engineering Lead, and a UX or Design Lead. Each role should identify what they see as their responsibilities to the team and also their expectations of what the other roles will do and deliver. For example, the Product Manager may include the following as key responsibilities of the Product role:
- Is an expert on the market, including customers and competitors
- Has ultimate responsibility for the business success of the product in the market
- Owns the creation and execution of the product strategy
- Owns the product roadmap
- Defines the product requirements
- Sets pricing
- Monitors and manages the program P&L and return on investment
- Is the final decision maker on product scope and schedule
The Product Manager may also identify the following in their list of expected responsibilities and deliverables for the Engineering Lead role:
- Specifies, develops, tests, and releases the product
- Defines the technology and architectural strategy for the product
- Translates product requirements from the Product Manager into technical specifications
- Creates and owns the engineering plan
The other roles would likewise identify the key responsibilities of their role and their expectations of the other roles. Having an open discussion on each role works to identify areas of alignment and, importantly, misalignment, which can then be resolved.
The final area the team should identify is the responsibilities that exist at the collective level and are no one role’s responsibility. This can include items such as monitoring for where ownership is unclear or identifying capacity deficits and working together to resolve those.
Read more about product teams and other key product management topics in my book, Mastering Product Management: A Step-By-Step Guide, available now in paperback and eBook.