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What is a Strong Product Culture?
In this post, I’ll talk about product culture.
A culture plays a big role in every company. It sets the tone for how people collaborate together, how they approach their work, and how they contribute to the success of the company.
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It influences employee engagement, talent attraction and retention, productivity, innovation, customer satisfaction, and the overall identity and reputation of the company.
A positive and inclusive culture is therefore essential for creating a successful company.
Don’t underestimate the importance of the company culture. The culture is the heartbeat of a company.
Best product companies have strong product culture. But what does product culture actually mean and what are the integral parts of such culture? Does your company have a mature product culture?
One great way to answer that is by observing how product-related decisions are made.
Let’s first explore examples of what is not a strong product culture.
If the power to make decisions primarily lies with business executives or managers, it indicates a more business-dictated or executive-driven culture rather than a strong product culture.
This scenario is quite common. Management makes decisions and then provides direction to product teams regarding what to build and which milestones should be achieved. Product teams, including engineering, design, and other functions, are expected to follow these directions without significant involvement in the strategic decision-making process.
In such an environment, the product teams execute the plans and priorities set by business leaders.
Because of this, product decisions are usually driven by business needs, like revenue goals, or financial considerations, rather than a deep understanding of customer needs or a focus on delivering an exceptional user experience.
Another prevalent cultural form is the sales-driven culture. Product team's decisions about what to build are strongly influenced by sales needs and the requirements of the prospects in the sales pipeline.
While a sales-driven culture has its merits and is suitable for certain organisations, it's important to recognise that this is different than a product-driven culture. In such organisations, the likelihood of developing an innovative, strategically viable and highly scalable product with long-term market success is decreased.
Key traits of a strong product culture
A product culture is characterised by a deep focus on understanding and meeting customer needs, driving innovation, and continuously improving products. It is an integral part of companies that prioritize product excellence and are dedicated to delivering value to their customers.
A great product culture begins with a strong focus on customer-centricity. Everyone in the organisation shares a deep understanding of who the product is designed for. This includes the product team, including developers, who possess a keen understanding of the user.
The company goals are primarily defined from a customer perspective. In this way, decisions about product are made in a manner that maximises user benefits.
Empowered product teams
They product teams are empowered. They take ownership of their work and make decisions that align with the product vision and customer needs.
Every product team has a clearly defined goal that aligns with the company’s overarching objectives. The teams have the autonomy, accountability and necessary resources to innovate, experiment, and iterate towards achieving that goal.
They are actively encouraged to engage in constructive criticism, irrespective of hierarchy. The collective goal is to ensure that the best decisions are made, regardless of the origin of the ideas.
Decisions informed by data
Data plays an important role in decision-making. Product teams fully recognise the benefits the data. They seamlessly integrate product analytics into the product development process.
Regular practices such as user research, customer feedback, and usability testing are employed to validate assumptions. The insights derived from these validations hold significant weight in determining which features to prioritize and build.
Teams are actively encouraged to experiment, test hypotheses, and learn from both successes and failures. A lot of ideas undergo daily testing, with only the few showing promising results moving forward into production.
Cross team collaboration
The are no hard boundaries between departments. There is a strong emphasis on collaboration and breaking down silos between different departments.
Product, engineering, design, marketing, and other teams work together. They share knowledge and expertise to deliver outstanding products.
Higher company objectives are set across teams. Cross-departmental collaboration is fostered to achieve these goals.
Continuous Improvement and Iteration
Great product culture is a culture of continuous learning.
It encompasses ongoing improvement for the product, continual growth for the team and their way of working, as well as continuous personal development.
The teams don't aim for perfection right away. Instead they focus on learning and getting better with each new phase.
Clear product vision and strategy
Strong product culture means also a well-defined product vision and strategy.
They are both effectively communicated and comprehended throughout the company. They serve as guiding principles, fostering alignment and clarity. Their purpose is to steer everyone towards the desired outcomes and direction.
A great product culture does not just happen. It starts with awareness, and then gradually transitioning to a company where everyone is passionate about creating value for customers.
This transformation may need change, and change takes time. However, by actively working on it and continuously striving for improvement, you will enjoy the benefits more and more with each passing day.
Thank you for staying with me throughout this article. As usual, if you have any thoughts, questions, or comments, don't hesitate to get in touch.
Until next time, take care!
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