The secret sauce product managers need for success
This podcast is getting a new name to better align with its purpose of helping product managers become product masters. That new name is Product Masters Now.
You don’t need to do anything to keep listening, but I want you to know the name change is coming in a few weeks, and it will show up in your podcast player not as The Everyday Innovator but as Product Masters Now.
This is another episode in the series on a product management body of knowledge curated by the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA). If you are unfamiliar with PDMA, it is the longest running volunteer-led professional association for product managers, existing since 1976. I’ve been publishing this series every-other-week, starting with episode 307, which was an introduction to the body of knowledge. Today we cover topics related to culture, teams, and leadership, which are essential to forming and maintaining an innovative environment that enables, encourages, and rewards product management and innovation processes and practices.
Our guest is Dr. Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, founder of Global NP Solutions, which helps individuals and organizations learn, adopt, transform, and sustain innovation. Previously, she worked in R&D, process technology development, and as an internal innovation expert at ExxonMobil Chemical Company.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[3:12] How are Culture, Teams, and Leadership important to product innovation?
It’s easy to implement systems, templates, and checklists, but culture, teams, and leadership really make for success. Teams need collaboration, expertise, and autonomy. You need trust among your teams and effective leadership that bridges the gap between strategy and execution.
[4:45] What is culture and how does it impact organizations and product teams?
You can feel the culture when you enter an organization—an innovative culture or a hindering, bureaucratic culture. The culture teaches how we do things in an organization. It’s how people behave and accomplish the mission. Culture allows a company to understand important qualities such as their risk tolerance, how much they can trust their teams, how much they interact with customers, how they work together, the pace of work, and how they bring an idea to commercialization when there’s risk involved. Culture is the “secret sauce” to unlocking success.
[9:20] How does culture relate to strategy?
Strategy consists of vision, mission, and values. Vision is who we are as an organization and includes our long-term goals for interactions with our community, employees, and environment. Mission is how we accomplish the vision. Values are the driving behaviors. Culture is closely tied to values because culture includes behaviors that allow an organization to have a reasonable approach to risk, fulfill their mission, and meet their vision.
[13:19] What is the importance of teams to innovation?
Lone geniuses don’t create spectacular innovations. For innovation, we need teams, particularly cross-functional teams that start together, work together, and launch the product together. Cross-functional teams can take many forms:
- Functional work groups for depth of innovation
- Lightweight teams for minor tweaks
- Heavyweight teams for large innovations
- Autonomous teams for something brand new
Important elements of a successful innovation team include:
- Ability to learn from mistakes and not be punished for them
- Being close to customers
[19:31] How do work styles impacts teammates and team performance?
The Z model identifies four categories of preferred work styles:
- Creators like to come up with ideas.
- Advancers are good at communicating ideas, interacting with customers, and getting feedback.
- Refiners are good at making plans.
- Executors want to get their hands dirty, jump in, and do the work.
Teams find that understanding each others’ work styles helps them communicate more effectively, and communication is what makes an innovation team successful.
[23:35] What assessments do you use to identify people’s work styles?
The Z model from PDMA has a very short assessment that teams can take together. Additionally, I use the DiSC assessment, which has four categories of work styles: dominant, influential, steady, and conscientious. These work styles relate to how people think, their preferred pace of work, and whether they rely on people or data to make decisions.
[25:29] What are the characteristics of an effective leader of an innovation team?
The DiSC assessment and Z model profiles help leaders build their teams and encourage their team members to understand each others’ work styles.
Equally important for leaders is emotional intelligence, which includes:
- Self-awareness—can come from a DiSC Assessment or Z model profile
- Self-regulation—being proactive but not reactive, especially when addressing uncertainties
- Understanding motivation—self-motivation and how to motivate the team
- Empathy—for customers and team members
It’s also the leader’s role to understand their team members’ work styles, priorities, and strengths. They must understand and address conflict and help their team members see each others’ viewpoints calmly and with control.
Leaders should lead by example, demonstrating their skills. For example, Home Depot’s executives spend a couple of weeks every year working on the floor at Home Depot stores. They understand the challenges of their customers and employees. Leaders have to get into the field to understand what their customers need. We follow leaders we admire, so leaders should behave how they want their team members to behave.
Action Guide: Put the information Teresa shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Check out Teresa’s Innovation Answer Book on Amazon
- Take the free Innovation Health Assessment
- Find more useful resources at GlobalNPSolutions.com
- Learn more about the Z model in the previous episode with Teresa, TEI 303
- Email Teresa at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary DiSC Assessment and one-hour coaching session (one per company)
“Rigor, zeal, and faith.” – Teresa Jurgens-Kowal’s life quote
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.