Objectives and key results (OKRs) are being discussed everywhere. Obviously, they are helpful to align the direction of the company across different teams. But does this make them fundamentally new?
You should be aware that they have first been mentioned already back in 1975 (read more here). Everyone who has some business education will know “Management by Objectives (MbO)”. We would argue that the framework is anything but new. Nevertheless, the fact that today it has become fashionable to implement OKRs in organizations is new. Above all, there seems to be an imminent need to align not only Product and IT, but also strategy and execution, business and product, product and marketing, etc.
Organizational Starting Point
Let’s take a look at the starting point. Organizational silo structures have made it increasingly difficult to have a competitive advantage over others. In a world where customer demands are getting more and more sophisticated, it is vital to be organisationally effective and efficient. At the same time, defining, designing, building and operating products requires an aligned approach. This cannot be planned like a waterfall project. The big word is “agility”. Most importantly, being able to ad hoc react to new insights and the ability to change direction whenever necessary. In a world where this matters most, a product leader needs to stand up. It all boils down to the ability to influence and to lead people into the desired direction. SPLSG have named those skills “horizontal skills.” Based on product management expertise, the responsibility of a product manager is ever-broadening.
OKRs might be a good framework. But without the overarching skills and without the mandate to lead, the implementation will simply end in a mess.
Get to know more
Discuss this topic more! We would recommend our next Product Leader Roundtable on September 14th in Berlin. It is fully dedicated to the topic “OKRs for Product Leaders.” Secure your tickets here.
Thank you to all our supporters and members since our initial launch in February 2019. It has been an interesting ride. We have had our first Product Leader Roundtable Event in Berlin and countless interactions with our members and product leaders who are interested in strengthening the still young discipline of (true) product leadership.
Now it is time to have a break! Enjoy summer and we are looking forward to resuming our activities in August/September.
Our SPLSG initiator & founding partner Jörg Malang will be in Berlin 02/07/ – 05/07/2019 to meet some product leaders and other people interested in catching up. One of the highlights will definitely also be the SPLSG “Biergarten” Event on July 4th.
In case you are interested in meeting Jörg next week, please feel free to schedule a time via Calendly. Looking forward to it!
Something is going on. When you read job ads for “Head of Product”, not only “customer understanding”, “understanding of technology” and “know how to work in an agile environment” show up as requirements. Increasingly things such as “coach and mentor our Product and UX teams to deliver their maximum potential” are there as well. In my interpretation, I would read that leadership capabilities are becoming increasingly important in the product management space. As long as pieces of advice to Heads of Product like “you need to coach your product managers 1:1” is sold like the hottest thing on earth, we haven’t reached a desirable level of maturity in the product management discipline.
I would see this as a good signal. Many product managers ended up in a leadership role in their organizations – and failed. They weren’t able to assess and develop the members of their staff. This is a sign of a bubble happening as we speak – too many people too early in leadership roles. There are Head of Product & VP Product roles in Berlin that are open for weeks and weeks. It is hard to find the right person. And organizations are increasingly hesitant to promote their existing product managers into leadership roles. The new breed of product leaders will have understood the importance of leadership capabilities. They will combine their product management expertise with a wealth of tools and personal experience to create value as a leader. There is no shortcut to this slow growth. To close this post, I would like to familiarize you with the “Peter Principle“ in case you aren’t aware of it yet. It is from 1969. And more valid than ever – especially in the product management function, I am afraid…
This is the sixth and last post about the SPLSG company services. And yet we believe it might be the most important one. After having seen that it all comes down to having the right product leadership in place, the way we see “digital transformation” is to help companies become true product companies.
True product companies understand that their business success depends on creating value for their customer (the famous WHY & WHAT) with (software) technology (the famous HOW).
How often do we hear that product & IT are there to “serve the business?” This might be true in mature traditional markets. But digital has turned the way upside down how value could be created for customers and businesses. In times of uncertainty and increasing digital competition, it is vital to change the mindset from top down to empowerment.
SPLSG Partners can help you if you are in an ambiguous situation. It is much more about grabbing the opportunity than having fear. “There might be dragons” – but they are not invincible. Read more here. Or reach out!
We are looking forward to your thoughts sent to us .
Marty Cagan from Silicon Valley Product Group (https://svpg.com) presented a topic during MTP Engage Hamburg Conference last month. This topic has to be close to the hearts of any product leader: “Empowered Product Teams.”
It was a really good presentation. Marty explained very well how important empowerment is for product managers and organizations. I am a big believer of Marty’s concept about product management.
But IMHO there are some unanswered questions in his presentation. Perhaps either Marty himself or someone else can help us answer them.
Our questions for Marty Cagan
Does the empowerment concept apply to all organizations? Or does it apply only to those that are dealing with a high amount of uncertainty and/or pressure to innovate?
How to navigate as a product leader in organizations where the product (discovery) is playing only a small role? Where e.g. the CMO or the COO is very dominant?
Marty talked about only 20% being companies with “missionaries” and 80% “mercenaries”. What do I as a product manager do if I happen to be in a “mercenaries” company? Walk away or try to influence/help the company to grow culturally?
How do I work with a CxO / line manager who doesn’t believe in the empowerment of the product team?
How do I change the perception of product management in my organization? From “serving the business” to being “empowered to serve the customers, in ways that meet the needs of the business.”
SPLSG focuses on “horizontal” product leadership. Based on the assumption there is a world-class team of product managers, the focus of the product leader is to understand how general management works. And -even more importantly- how to influence the course of their respective organizations. Read more about this here.We firmly believe that it is time to stand up and become respected leaders. Also outside our very own product management function.
How about you?