Our 2021 Speaker Series continues with Barren Castor, the Sr. Product Director at Rev, a leader in speech-to-text services with a focus on human audio transcription. In this session hosted by our new Seattle Chapter Head, Iryna Krutenko, they dig into how to truly maximize product resources by aligning product managers around problem areas. Watch the full event above, and don’t forget to sign up on our event page to join us at a new virtual product event every week.
On what makes a great product manager
During this session, Barren focuses on how product leaders can empower product managers to own problem areas. One key point that stands out is to give product managers autonomy and flexibility to go from good to great. Essentially, he says, “unleash them”.
“Great PMs remove all roadblocks to delivering value to users. They understand what users want, help define the business opportunity, get the right product resources in line to solve their problems, then work with all stakeholders to build and ship value.
On the common problems with quarterly goals
Quarterly goals, or top-down planning, is a common strategy for product teams. However, this can pigeon-hole teams or product managers into certain ways of thinking that remove the big picture. Drawing from personal experience, Barren illustrates the common mistakes that occur when product managers attach priority to meeting quarterly goals.
“The most common, sometimes in a good way, is goal blinders. This occurs when a team knows a really big problem, and it may even be in the team’s scope, but it doesn’t fit into the quarterly goals or OKR, so no product resources are spent on it. It’s when a team knows what customers want, but because they are not measured that way, it doesn’t really matter in the moment”
“Another related, but slightly different issue is the bystander effect. This is when it’s not in your team’s scope, and everyone sees the problem, but no team’s name is to work on X. Or, it’s no one’s goal to work on X, so it gets put to the side.”
“The last one, and my least favorite, is stretching for problems. This is when a team knows what they are working on, and they don’t want to give up any resources, so they create problems that are directly in line with how the team is named, or what they think is important in a small scope. There may be more things that are important, but they don’t want to go over there, because the team is very safe in their specific space.”
“I think all of these problems come from the same place. It’s the idea of owning a specific area or well-defined product, and not a business outcome overall aligned with a customer, product or market.”
On empowering product managers to maximize product resources
Empowering product managers may not be an entirely new concept, but it’s importance cannot be underestimated. In the main content of the session, Barron dives deep into the methods he uses to encourage product managers to own outcomes and problems for higher results. Watch the entire video above to gain all the insights.
“I think there’s a clear process for figuring out how to find outcomes and problems to work on, not just defining the different products and putting a team on a specific product. That process starts with getting as much context as possible on all the problems the organization has.”
“At Rev, we’ve decided that product managers are not going to own just a part of the experience. Instead, they’re responsible for a specific outcome for a service or a type of customer.
“We use a very collaborative planning process of both annual and quarterly goals. We start with top-down goals with vision and strategy. Then, we pair that with bottoms-up understanding of the customer. Because we tie these people to specific types of customers, they really know the needs of that group. The result is a much healthier process.”
About the speaker
Barron Caster is the Senior Director of Product Management at Rev.com, where he is currently running the product team after building the Growth team from the ground up. Previously, he scaled operations at Zenefits within Product Operations, and aided the founders at General Catalyst Partners as an Associate. He is an angel investor helping with core product and go-to-market, as well as a graduate of the University of Southern California with an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering and Product Development.