As each product team has its own size, composition, resources and mentality, product rituals must be adapted to reach efficiency. Raising money to enter the scale-up companies family doesn’t mean that you will instantly be able to build fully fledged feature team and that’s why most of the time, frameworks we are learning in books are utopias. It just depends on the stage you’re at! Consider this short article as a PM testimonial who has freshly jumped from a restrictive environment to a more flexible (though rocky) one.
Starting a PM career as a consultant is definitely the best springboard you can dream of
After 3+ years working as a product guy in a consultancy firm, I have spent most of my time learning theoretical stuffs in books and videos, trying to concretely apply them on mid-term missions. To become the next PM rockstar (I prefer rap music though), I’ve been pretty much advised to learn complex models that needed to be crossed with an endless list of frameworks/workshops, without even looking at how the team was set to behave. Among them : product rituals. The reality is that 80% of what I’ve learned turned to be non-applicable/suitable/pertinent to the concrete situations I’ve faced (I feel you Pareto). And when it came to weekly product ceremonies (daily stand-up, scrum of scrum, project synch, retros), people were often complaining : “time-consuming and productivity killer” (1h daily foosball games weren’t that frowned upon though).
Look around you and don’t force to fit in
Then, early in 2020, I had the incredible opportunity to start something new. Same job but in a fast growing startup, amidst a freshly built out product team, with the possibility to run experiments in the discovery and delivery areas.
After a bunch of mistakes and trials while working on releasing new features/products, we came to rely on specific rituals to pave us the way through the uncertain road of Product Development. As a team, we decided to get rid of the common ones to explore ours, with this particular context :
-The COVID-19 pandemic was spreading worldwide and forced people to spend most of their time behind their screens (so the “less is more” motto when it comes to meetings became even more true)
-We are a pretty small Product team — 1 head of Product, 2 Product Managers, 2 Product Designers, 1 UX Researcher and 1 Data Manager— working on 4–5 products at once (both internal and external), and trying to optimize the strength of each people
-We implemented some affordable tools for analytics (Hotjar, Intercom, Mailjet or Google Analytics to name a few) and Product Management purposes (Miro, Notion) to both understand how to remain customer-centric and better organize ourselves
-We all are on the same wavelength (and it’s crucial)
Jeff Sutherland and his devoted theoretician Scrum Masters (or Maharishi Mahesh Yogi with four talented insects)
Let’s play a “pick and choose” game
Product rituals are deeply rooted into your organization mentality and resources. Here is an overview of what we implemented at Convelio to be as efficient as possible in both Discovery and Delivery, involving internal (Ops ans Sales team) and external (end users) stakeholders :
As you can see, we don’t do meetings such as daily stand up, feature-scoring or any sprint relative one because we don’t feel that we need it right now (we don’t have sprint, actually). If the company keeps growing fast and the product/tech teams get bigger, we’ll probably reconsider it but for now, we simply stick to our needs (and we survived yet). Other thing to keep in mind : don’t hesitate to often ask for tech guys too at the conception stage, as matching user needs starts with technical feasibility. Of course, all of those rituals need to be regular to reach efficiency, but they can be completed by more punctual ones, such as monthly 1-to-1 team members meetings (to get 360° feedbacks) or bi-weekly all-hands not to miss context across all departments.
You’ll never walk alone
You might not be a Celtic or a Liverpool fan (both champions this year, clap clap!), this sentence is still applicable for you. If you try to talk to some Product Guys who work in booming/hot companies (I did ask some friends of mine, PMs in startup of similar stages, for advices about their product habits), you’ll see that a huge part of them won’t follow basic routines as it will just slow them down.
Old firm game excitation. Almost the same when it comes to turn user data into something tangible.
Don’t fear customizing your own rituals : it will help you build empathy and appreciation within your multidisciplinary team, with each member of the team owning one. Focus on those that will bring the most value to better gauge feedbacks and help you adjust your product roadmaps consequently. Pretty easy to implement, so try at least!