How I think about and approach leading product teams

Leading through uncertainty

The process of product and service development, particularly when innovating, starts with uncertainty; uncertainty in the “problem space” (do we understand the problem/opportunity we are chasing), challenges due to “solution pollution” and innovator bias (where ideas early in the process are defined as the solution without validation), and later in the lifecycle, uncertainty in the “solution space” (do we know that we are building the right thing, are we meeting underserved user needs). I like to refer to this as “working in the fuzzy front end” because, for me, this describes the high level of uncertainty and risk at this stage in the process of bringing ideas to market.

With the clients I work with, there is a collective acknowledgement that the way things are done in the business today will not continue to support growth, and sometimes even the business’s survival is at stake. The imperative for innovation is generally accepted, but the practicalities of “how” to explore, identify and realise either new or incremental growth opportunities are not well understood; uncertainty, working “off-plan” and dealing with emergence still feels very uncomfortable.

In my practice, I am leading and coaching others to identify and reduce the four product risks and to use data and the processes optimised to gather it, to make better decisions. With a ‘value-first’ approach, I am always working to ensure that investments made at the portfolio level lead to the creation of propositions, products and services, or state/structure change needed by the organisation to grow and progress. I thrive in environments where I am working with new ideas and where I am changing how work works. I am driven to focus on delivering valuable business outcomes, the end-to-end optimisation of flow, and in directing a systematic process that incorporates feedback into my teams’ iterative practice.

I lead teams when they are working in the space between Post-it notes and profit.