Learning with your product team

For many years I have worked with product teams. And while there are certainly overarching skills, tools and insights for every product role to have, it is just as true that no two product teams are working in the exact same context. So thinking that you can take what works for one product team and 100% replicate that in another one and it will lead to the same kind of successful outcomes is simply not the case. Markets differ, the team compositions differ, the unique strengths of the people on your teams are different, the problem you solve for your clients is usually not the same, the solutions you market are typically not working in the exact same way, your brand image is different, the role of product in your organization will likely not be the same, etc… All that is to say: making your product team successful will look slightly different for each team. The best way I have found to navigate that is to truly tap into the joint wisdom, skills, inner resources and creativity in your team, stakeholders and sponsors in order to succeed in your context. One of those ways is to involve the entire team in co-creating their learning journeys.

I have recently experimented with an updated product learning journey workshop design. Here is what I did: I got a group of seasoned product people together. We took a look at a product learning approach, one you can try out with your teams, too. I’ve made a mural template to facilitate the workshop. I am happy to share the template with you if you are interested. Feedback from my first roster of participants has been really positive and I hope it’s something you might also find valuable in working with your product teams. Here is how the workshop works:

There is a short checkin that both ensures everyone can work with our shared virtual whiteboard and every participant has made their first daring contribution in the first five minutes. We then starts with creating our “how we want to be together” expectations of each other. The section is intentionally open to group co-design.

Next we visit the underlying philosophies and concepts that went into the workshop design. There is a space to ask clarifying questions. This further sets the tone and is encouraging people to start getting curious as well as to prepare everyone to make daring contributions, even in the context of a team full of strangers in this workshop experiment. It normalizes that everyone is always on a learning journey, and that every time we stretch and grow, it may feel very vulnerable, uncertain and uncomfortable.

Next there is a fairly large box I pre-populated with concepts, skills and tools that can serve as inspiration for product learning topics. There are product topics that somebody in the team may find interesting for their own personal development, and ones somebody recognizes as the kind of tool needed for their team in their current context. There are additional blank boxes for anyone in the team to put a topic forward, that they feel might be important and missing.

The learning inspirations box includes a Product Mangement Leadership Framework, a Product Activities Framework, A Product Management Lifecycle Model, Tips on how to build Emotional Agility, A sustainable Business Model Canvas tool, Marty Cagan’s product dimensions (valuable, usable, feasible, viable), Petra Wille’s PMwheel (a Product Manager (self-) assessment tool), Google’s insights into what makes successful teams, etc…

Most importantly there is a box we used for co-creating ideas on how to thrive in uncertainty. Something every product role will have to navigate and learn to be good at. This box can be substituted by any other topic that you as a product lead feel might be where your team has the most to learn (could be culture, could be purpose and vision, could be discovery, etc…). The intention of the box is to involve everyone in the co-creation of ideas how your team might learn more about a topic that has the potential to get your team to thrive and transform. The ultimate aim is building a rockstar team capable to navigate whatever challenge is thrown at them. Here is what came out of a group that recently looked at the topic of Thriving in Uncertainty:

Co-creating a part of the learning topics is a practical way to show in action, that you as a product lead are valuing everyone’s voice in the room equally. I wrote in a previous blog post, how product roles profit form an interconnected mindset. Co-creating ideas for learning topics is one way to act in accordance with that.

You may have noticed those green dots on the last image. They came from a dot voting on the entire space of learning topic inspirations. Here is a screenshot of the entire map of potential product learning topics. The Thriving in Uncertainty box is sitting at the top right of this fairly large space.

What you may also notice is that there was a topic mentioned on one of those yellow sticky notes at the bottom right of the space that got the most votes. A workshop participant added “Learning Rituals” to the space. And many in the group wanted to hear more about that. The powerful question that led to this contribution was “What – if anything – is an important topic missing, that would help our team learn and transform the most?”

At another point a spontaneous discussion started on performance reviews in product teams. A topic that obviously had a lot of organic interest from the group. The beauty of keeping the learning topic space open is that those additional topics surface naturally and are allowed to be taken up as part of what the group wants to learn about more. The key word here is “wants to learn more about”. We are at our best in learning new skills when we actually want to learn about them.

The workshop design closes out with a section on commitments and feedback, which gets people into actually doing something about their learning journey and reflecting back on whether this workshop lived up to the philosophies laid out at the beginning. It’s a session design you can easily adapt to your needs. I am more than happy to give you access to the mural template and discuss how to adapt it to your team. I’m also really happy to facilitate something like this for your team and then hand the process over to you. Just reach out to me through the “Let’s talk” button below. The session design works in fully remote, hybrid or in person contexts. I sincerely hope that this will put some joy into learning with your product team. I found my teams to be completely transformed after working together on something like this. It takes some consistency for a period of time, and is a great way to practically build learning and growth into a team. I have developed another workshop design similar to this on for supporting you and your teams in learning about leadership. Let me know if you’d like to participate in the leadership learning journey workshop. The first one I’m doing is free and I promise you’ll walk away inspired by the joint wisdom in your group.

Photo by Amélie Mourichon on Unsplash

If you would like to explore this more: reach out for a free discovery session with me.
I coach, speak, do workshops and blog about #leadership, #product leadership, #innovation, the #importance of creating a culture of belonging and how to succeed with your #hybrid or #remote teams.

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