What is the Product of the VP Product?
Updated: Jan 25
When your product is your team.
Your Team is Your Product
One of the hardest things for a VP Product to do, as the team of product managers under his lead grows, is to release control. As a VP Product, you need to trust your product managers to make the right decisions. You need to empower them.
One of the best ways to do it is to understand that your product is no longer “the product”. Your product as the VP Product is the team of product managers, and in turn, they are responsible for the product(s).
Just like any product you need to have a vision, strategy, values, roadmap, goals, and metrics for your team.
Vision, Strategy, and Values
Just like any product, you must envision how you want your team to look like and be perceived. What kind of people will be in this team and what will be their strengths. What values do you want them to have?
Remember that there are many types of product managers and if you don’t define properly what you are looking for you might find your team is lacking the ability to tackle the challenges ahead by themselves.
Personally, I envision my team as follows:
Diverse. With every product manager recruited, I am looking for something new that will give a new edge to the team. I try to build the team in a way that the sum is greater than its pieces. If the last person I recruited was very strong in user experience I may look for someone data-oriented next time.
No Ego. All my product managers must come to product from humbleness. They cannot be busy with ego wars. They need to be willing to work hard on their soft skills.
Whole. The product team needs to have additional functions either within the group or outside the group working with the team. In addition to product management, among the functions needed, are user experience and design, product marketing, technical writing, data analysis, and product operations.
Want to win. Their role is to deliver the best value for the business and customers and for that they should be able to move the organization to action, and have no excuses.
Self-Motivated. You don’t want to micro-manage anyone. You want every product manager in the team thinking big.
Growth Minded. You want a team that is willing to learn all the time.
Just like any product, you will not have everything from the start. Just like any startup you will start very lean and scale as you grow. If you have your vision you already know what you want in order to get there.
You also need a plan for how you get there:
How will you build your product team?
Whom will you recruit first?
How will you build their skills and what plans you will have in place to help them grow?
Goals and Metrics
Every product manager in the team should have her goals defined and how she is going to be measured. Their goals must be measurable and you should definitely set proper metrics in order to track them.
The goals need to include a combination of:
Product goals. These are the business KPIs for the product or squad(s) the product manager is responsible for such as increase daily active users by 10% within 3 months.
Team goals. These are goals that are connected to the team as a product. They are usually your goals as VP product, but many times you want to share them with your team. An example of such goal could be to define 3 product principles by next quarter.
Personal goals. These are the personal goals of the product manager. For example: give 2 product management lectures in the next 6 months. This goal should be really tailored to the specific personal things the product manager needs for his growing.
I would recommend using a framework such as OKRs to define the goals both bottom-up and top-bottom. OKRs stands for objectives and key results and are a way for the whole organization to define objectives transparently and measure itself. In OKRs you tell the team what you need them to accomplish, and how the results will be measured, and let them figure out the best way to solve the problems. More on OKRs in How Google set Goals.
If you want your product managers to be really self-empowered and still make the right decisions you need to work on product principles.
The product's basic values can be defined by a set of product principles you want this product to follow (for more about product principles, see Framing Product Decisions and Product Principles = Better Products).
Product principles help everyone understand not what decisions need to be made, but rather how we make decisions.
Just as for product managers my recommendation was to make themselves redundant, the same applies to the VP product. If you want your products to succeed you need to build a self-empowered team that can do most of the work without you.
Your job is to lead the way, define the strategy and build a framework that enables them to be successful and build amazing products.
Lead by Example