Ginkgo Bioworks Head of Product on Bioengineering Products (Part 3)
The Advantages of The Sprint Week System
Product management at Ginkgo manages fairly complex projects across many stakeholders, and to do this well you need product managers who trust each other and work as a team. In many organizations a product managers main team is the scrum team. Ginkgo has taken a different approach with the product team.
We manage the team as its own agile scrum team. We operate one week sprints that are offset from the digital technology’s two week sprints. At the end of the sprint we talk through issues we encountered and have a really good discussion about how to do it better next time. There are three really good advantages to this system.
- First, it provides the opportunity to mentor peers and to be mentored by peers. Feedback is being traded all the time. So, it’s an expectation that you not only do your own work but make room to help others. This keeps communication channels open, and builds trust among team members.
- Second, the review process is really great at catching misalignment very quickly. The product team spends multiple weeks planning ahead of the development scrub teams. Therefore, I can tell in advance if something doesn’t fit with the direction of my portion of the project. In which case, I can go talk to the PM and iron out the misalignment before anything gets coded.
- Finally, because you see everything on a scrum board it becomes very clear when a product manager is only working on active or tactical items. We found that with the one week sprints product managers can commit to being strategic for one of those sprints. Then they can be tactical for the next one. This is super helpful and it makes room for both short term and long term planning.
What Makes a Great Product Manager
Products for biotechnology are hard to build. The field changes so rapidly and that’s a challenge for product development. A great product manager is someone who can understand the highly technical problems. In addition, they can also work productively with stakeholders to shape processes and solve problems. Finally, I think a great product manager can deliver a technology solution that supports stakeholders.