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Product Mindset

It all starts with a way of thinking whether in the process of designing, developing, producing, and delivering products or services. What is your mindset like? Are you focusing on the people, the process, or the technologies? Even better, do you concentrate on how work is done or how people think about the work they do? Perhaps, the answer to these questions can be found in the book called Product Mindset. The authors of this book are David H. DeWolf and Jessica S. Hall. This is fascinating reading with timeless thoughts that I believe will stimulate you to think about and offer a different perspective on the execution of work you do in organizations.


All the information below is taken from the book, so I don't take any credit but rather share what I personally found beneficial.


The digital challenge


If leaders can’t identify exactly what’s changing, how can they successfully navigate the transformation? Things are changing so they can figure out how to survive and more importantly, how to thrive. Three trends revolutionized how technology was being used - the cloud, social media, and mobile computing.


Discovering the Product Mindset


Technology leaders, like most are technically savvy. Like some, they understand the business. Finally, unlike most of peers, they are also emotionally intelligent. It’s important to learn to filter every decision through business objectives, customer needs, and product realities.


Defining the Product Mindset


Mindset is based on the idea that we can all grow through experience, learning, and taking risks. By contrast, the “fixed mindset” means that you believe your levels of intelligence, creativity, and skill are innately fixed.


Our mindset matters because it guides, frames, and shapes the decisions we make every day, the big and the small. A product team with a growth mindset can deal with complexity and change. It will constantly improve, learn, and adapt. What happens if we ask our teams to reach a revenue target instead? What happens if we ask them to solve our customers’ problems? If we set out to answer these questions, we set product teams up to succeed because they understand what is most important and respond accordingly. Mindset is everything.


The Product Mindset allows everyone to view their ultimate goal through the same lens and connects the whole organization through a shared language. Product Mindset is not meant for only teams or only executives. It can’t flourish on its own or take off without sponsorship. The entire organization needs to embrace it, from the bottom up and the top down.


The Product Mindset is a collection of characteristics and principles, which guide executives and their teams to build digital products.

True innovation occurs at the intersection of customer desires and business outcomes.


Benefits of the Product Mindset


The Product Mindset sharpens focus, eliminates distractions, and prevents companies from trying to be all things to all people or serve ten thousand customers before they’ve served ten.


A vital by-product of focus is speed. If you can’t develop and release a digital product quickly, you’re in trouble. The Product Mindset helps guide development teams to create that value quickly. The Product Mindset encourages experimentation and learning. Every time your team learns something about the customer, the product or the technology team gets smarter and faster. Experimenting is key in our digital economy; you cannot simply sit in a room with engineers and come up with the best answer.


Finally, an organization that is empowered by the Product Mindset will attract and retain talent.


Creating a change ready organization


An organization that’s ready for change must also be equipped with the right processes, people, and tools to manage it. These will look different to different types of businesses. Along with developing change management processes in your organization, you need change-ready employees. One way to help a development team navigate change is by involving them in the decision-making process. Also encourage your teams to look elsewhere for ideas and insights.


The ultimate goal of excelling at change is to be able to build for change to build an environment that is flexible and streamlined.


What is culture in a product organization?


Culture is “not anything you write down on a slide, it’s what you do”. Culture includes habits that happen by default, what an organization naturally does. Culture will either improve or undermine employee engagement and satisfaction, allow or disallow creative thinking and good judgment calls about change, and build or erode trust when it comes to iteration. A culture that adopts the Product Mindset empowers everyone.


Changing your culture


Some leaders think culture “just happens.” But studies have shown that you can deliberately create (or change) the culture of your organization.


First, hire wisely. Recruit employees that have the Product Mindset. Then, shape the behavior of a team through training, feedback, discipline, rewards, and so on. Then, define the culture you want and hold everyone accountable to it. Be candid about the strengths and shortcomings in your organization’s culture and what might sabotage the Product Mindset. Define the easy wins that are going to energize everyone, so you can start creating a self-funding environment.


Culture travels from the top down and from the bottom up. The tone at the top will inevitably shape culture for better or worse. Leaders must clearly identify what behavior will or will not be tolerated. Saying no means making hard calls that create space and time for teams to be innovative.


Troops on the ground drive and shape corporate culture as much as the tone from the top. As an executive, it is essential that you create an environment where a strong product culture can thrive. First, provide the guardrail of strategic direction. Teams need to know what they are building. They need to be pointed in the right direction. Empowerment without strategic direction is not empowerment at all; it’s a lack of leadership. Second, provide the guardrail of guiding principles. Guiding principles tell the team how to think and make decisions in the moment. Teach your teams to minimize time to value, solve to need, and excel at change. If they know these principles, they will consistently make the right decisions. A leader must demonstrate through their actions that they are committed to what they say. They motivate, inspire, and ensure adherence to these guiding principles.


Three key elements


When your organization is challenging the status quo and trying to disrupt markets, you want people to have the freedom to exercise their creativity, the psychological safety to communicate openly, and the discipline to focus on what’s important. You want team members to experiment and be comfortable taking risks. There are three elements of culture that motivate these behaviors and sustain the Product Mindset: empowerment, freedom, and communication. If you can integrate these components into your organization, you will be ready to shine in the digital economy.


A sense of empowerment

It may seem counterintuitive but placing clear boundaries around employees can actually empower them. Research done with preschoolers shows this. Setting clear boundaries empowers employees to be brave enough to push all the way to the edges.


The freedom to wrestle with ideas

Without guidelines, employees can become paralyzed; without a clear sense of direction, employees don’t always know how to succeed. A healthy team is one that trusts each other enough to share and dissect ideas.


Open communication

When organizations lack open communication, they miss out on the natural benefits of collaboration across teams.



It’s my hope that you found the above information value-added. The Product Mindset ebook can be downloaded on the 3pillarglobal website.


Marek

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