Building Product Teams, not Products
Alex Diaz is a former Google Product Lead. He has more than a decade of experience in Product Management, with some of the biggest names around on his resume. He recently served as the VP of Product at Jetty, which is a new financial services company for everyday renters. Diaz has also worked with several early-stage companies helping to clarify their product vision, improve internal processes, mentor junior PMs, interview candidates and more. He also put in time as the VP of Product Management for Yahoo
He recently spoke at Etsy HQ in New York and discussed the importance of building product teams, not products.
To learn all about building Product Teams, we highly recommend watching the video of Alex Diaz’s Speaker Series presentation. There were lots of laughs to be had. However, we know not everyone processes learning that way. So, we’ve got you covered with some of the most critical information below.
He kicked off with all the different ways that he’s tried to explain what a product manager does. For anyone who has worked in tech, as relatable as can be about the difficulties of telling your parents what you do for a living.
In his journey to discover how to describe what a Product Manager does, he revealed the importance of his role in building the product team.
“The team is the ‘machine’ that builds the product,” said Diaz. “If I want to improve the product, then I need to improve the team.”
Aligning on inputs (not outputs)
For Diaz, he realized that his best work was done less when he was focused on the output or the results of the product team’s work and more on what he the input he was contributing to his team.
How to align inputs:
- Asking lots and lots of questions
- Meetings and meeting notes
- Forwarding threads that show how other people think
- Finding and circulating examples from other domains
- Getting certain people to talk or present to others
- Telling a ‘sticky’ story
- Communicating crisp, focused goals
One tip Diaz shared on how to do this responsibility well was to reverse engineer from the answer to a problem. He suggests to study the problem, determine the correct solution, think about what input made that solution most obvious to him and then share the input, not the solution with his team.
How to do team maintenance
Your product team, like any machine, will require maintenance. Here’s how Diaz suggests you do that:
- Ask many questions
- Understand how and why the team is functioning
- Revising processes for prioritization and sprint planning
- Changing team structures
- Hiring, firing, or moving team members
- Adopting or deprecating tools
Leading a Product Team requires humility
When you’re a great Product Manager, you’re not the star of the team. It’s your job to let everyone else shine in their roles.
In fact, Daiz says that the goal of a great Product Manager should be to render themselves obsolete.
“The ideal number of PMs is zero. Of course, you never actually achieve zero. But I don’t think the mindset of more is better is particularly helpful.”