Continuing on our series on team objectives, once product teams have their team objectives for the quarter and are pursuing, active management will still be needed.
Much as the product strategy requires ongoing tracking and managing by the product leaders, the team objectives require ongoing tracking and managing by the product team.
Keep The Lights On Work
Remember that the team objectives are not the only work that a product team is responsible for. We also have the “keep the lights on” or “business as usual” work we discussed earlier. We do need to keep an eye on this ongoing work if it spikes, the team won’t be able to make much progress on their team objectives.
The key is to make sure the product teams are actively managing the progress on the team objectives, otherwise it is all too possible that weeks and then months will fly by with little progress.
At a minimum, the product teams stay on top of progress by discussing at weekly check-ins where they are, what is upcoming, and where they might need help. These weekly OKR check-ins are the key mechanism that teams use to track and manage their own progress.
Occasionally the teams will raise an issue that requires the leaders to coordinate to resolve conflicts or issues. There are different schools of thought on the meetings that leaders can use to manage these issues, but our focus is for issues to be actively managed, decisions made promptly, and large group meetings minimized.
Staying On Track
However, there’s two caveats here. First, it’s critical that each member of the product team is getting the ongoing coaching they need to develop. And some of that coaching will pertain to the OKR related issues they face.
Second, the product manager specifically needs to be communicating with her manager about any important issues so that the manager can have the chance to provide assistance where possible.
If the team determines they need the assistance of management, then the sooner this need is raised the better chance management has of helping in a timely and effective manner.
It’s also an important obligation to alert management as early as possible in the event that there is a question as to the team’s ability to deliver on a high-integrity commitment.
Similarly, if there is a dependency, such as on another product team, this dependency will need to be managed and tracked carefully. If they are a dependency for another team, then they will need to keep this in mind and ensure this work is completed in time for the team that is depending on them.
Helping Our Colleagues
While so much of empowered product teams is about optimizing for the product teams, it’s also important to recognize that we often will need to help our colleagues on other product teams out, and we very likely have situations where we will depend on them helping us out as well.
The best product teams know that when it comes to tech companies, we either all succeed or none of us succeed. And it’s not unusual to find yourself in the situation where you believe you must do something that’s not in the best interest of your product team, but you see that it is in the best interest of the customer and of the broader organization.