How do you build new muscle as a product team?
Here is the fifth episode in the 2022 Product Awards series. The conversation features Wayfair Product Leader Nacho Andrade and InVision CPO Jeff Chow. The discussion began with Jeff explaining that InVision has long been obsessed with building simple tools to improve team engagement. Jeff then shared how InVision had the opportunity to build and flex new muscles — for new customer segments — during the pandemic. Finally, Jeff laid out three traits of a great product manager.
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On being obsessed with team engagement
“InVision’s mission is to inspire teams to do their best work together. A big part of that is fostering inclusivity, encouraging ideation, deepening collaboration. And it’s all through our visual canvas. The fun fact about InVision is we’ve been fully distributed since its founding in 2011. So pre-pandemic, we’ve been living and breathing these pain points of how we actually create deeper engagement, team productivity, together, throughout the experience.
“And so a big part of that is we’ve been using our own product, to solve our own problems, for over a decade now. And it just so happens when the pandemic hit, everyone else needed to solve that problem as well. So, I would say that we’ve been maniacally obsessed with creating simple products that get everyone engaged within the organization. Many of the world’s best companies have felt that pain acutely recently, and that’s something that we’ve been able to deliver on.”
On building new muscle as a product organization
“We’ve definitely gone through a massive transformation at InVision. We started very focused on designers and designer workflows. And we are building a lot of great products that help designers visually collaborate with all the various stakeholders that they handle. When the pandemic hit, though this digital transformation, the acceleration of it. All of a sudden, we were hearing people from all different industries, different verticals, different functions, reaching out to us.
At this point, “we just saw this opportunity. We could actually make this an inclusive collaboration platform for the full organization. It’s the same principles. Design thinking and agile processes are really just ways of creating more inclusive collaboration.
Consequently, “our product team felt really emboldened when they saw these kinds of use cases. We were so focused on one direction and saw this. It was a really exciting kind of change for our organization. We started having to build new muscle. Instead of optimizing for one persona, we had to switch gears to look at a more horizontal platform mindset. We had to introduce templates to cater to very specific use cases. And it was a huge growth opportunity for all of us. Because there’s all sorts of different product managers, and we were asking a lot of them to become almost inventors, and very quickly. It was a great moment.”
On what makes a great product manager
“I think product managers are basically great team leaders. And there are three traits that make a great product manager. One is an amazing communicator. I think this is being able to really understand, How would I communicate to the engineering team? How would I communicate to stakeholders or executives? And how would I communicate to my peers and other squads or zones across the way? There’s different ways of translating, engaging, and being very understanding, of adding the right context to the right audience.
“The second one is an amazing problem solver. Basically everything that we have to do during the day is solving problems. It could be solving people problems. Or solving the actual product problem. It could be solving anything, but basically, everything’s a problem to be solved. And the more creative you are, the better off you are.
“And the last one I think is pace setter. I think this is where PMs tend to get in a little bit of trouble. Because you’re not doing all the execution yourself. There sometimes are passive PMs who are like, ‘Yeah, well, the engineer said it’s 12 weeks, so it’s 12 weeks.’ And then other times you have people be like, ‘That’s impossible!’
In sum, “if you actually blend those three things together. The communicator: the why and the what and the impact. The problem solver: the spirit of like, okay, let’s work the problem; let’s understand it a little bit more. And then be setting a pace. Then I think you’re generally delivering a really high quality product with the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time. So I think those are the three traits that make great product leaders.”