Product Management – Planning for an Action-oriented team

This is part 2 in a series of posts on converting product management theory into action. We’ll focus on the organizational aspects and what business influences drive our teams. For those product managers going it alone (I’ve been there before) I’ve added some content just for you.     

In my previous post, I presented a series of questions surrounding how well you and your team understand what the executive team, business and organization expect from product management.

The factors driving product management’s success are often associated with the market orientation of the company or the focus and style of executive leadership. While product management may be focused on the real issues, there are visible or hidden influences that may impact how and when you introduce an action-oriented team. To better plan for this introduction, we’ll explore several factors.    

Market Orientation

The market orientation of any business can bring a strong influence to product management, its structure, alignment and execution. Because market orientation plays heavily into what type of organization should be created, product management leaders have to identify and plan their strategies accordingly.

What market orientation motivates and moves your company? The image below was introduced in “The Secret of Market-Driven Leaders” ebook, a precursor to Tuned In by Pragmatic Marketing. Based on research and market evidence, Pragmatic shared the following about each orientation:  


  • Technology-driven: innovation is everything and that’s what we do.
  • Sales-driven: revenue is the cure for almost anything. Where’s the next sale coming from?
  • Customer-driven: our customers let us know what we need to bring to market and when.
  • Market-driven: what we want, but not sure how to get there. Using market knowledge and defined processes you discover unsolved problems and bring products to market that delight customers and expand markets.

Looking at the image and definitions, where’s your company? Is the structure and approach to product management similar? Let’s look at the internal influences as another ingredient.

Executive of Influence

As a tribal-oriented people, we often connect with those we’ve worked with, established trust and recognize the strengths and capabilities of those we know. Product Management and its leadership is no exception and we are often brought into companies because of professional or personal relationships with a hiring manager or executive. While you may have an ally internally, is that person the “executive of influence?” Who and what is the executive of influence?

An executive of influence is the person owning the strategic influence in a company. While most organizations recognize the CEO as the leadership influence, they may not be the executive of influence. Why? Due to growth, organizational changes, personalities and business pressures, the influence may change or evolve.

In the Secrets of Market-Driven Leaders, Pragmatic Marketing discovered, “Evidence shows that entrepreneurs who started the company and who understood buyer problems soon become occupied with the details of running their organization. They no longer focus on buyer problems and building products the market wants to buy, but rather they obsess about the details of managing an ongoing business.”

Think about your organization. Who is the executive influencer of the business? Is it the same person that started the company of has this moved to a technical orientation, perhaps a strategist, architect or engineering executive? Is that person the senior sales executive? Is your organization influenced by marketing or perhaps a founder or co-founder? Every company has such a person and quite often there are more than one.

Finding and understanding the executive of influence is important to building an action-oriented team or leading more effectively as an individual contributor. Pragmatic Marketing released some of its annual survey results and it’s great to see product management reporting to CEO’s in more companies.  

Why is this happening? I believe the executive of influence recognizes that “understanding buyer problems and building products the market wants to buy” is strategic and product management has the most experience and market understanding.

Once you’ve identified and understand your relationship, you have one more artifact to use in creating strategic value or a product management team that can thrive and focus on strategic activities. Now, let’s review product management’s capabilities and you.

Product Management Heritage

A lot can be said for heritage. As a product manager or product management leader, have you assessed yours? Some time ago, I reviewed mine and found that I gravitate toward the inbound (strategic), but have outbound strengths. I engage well with the market (I was an SE many years ago), I understand and respect what sales does (I’ve worked in field sales teams), and have acquired the skills to communicate with executives. I connect well with peers and enjoy leading teams, while learning from others. What does the assessment of my heritage say about the type of product management team I might assemble?

As you review your heritage, you might realize you have unique organization and leadership skills, a diverse technical aptitude, financial acumen or other traits that are untapped and that you aren’t using. This heritage and current knowledge should factor into the style, structure and execution of the team.

While the market orientation and executive of influence may guide product management, it doesn’t mean you can’t create an organization that is process enabled, provides strategic value and introduces and sustains a balance of influence.  

In my next post, I’ll discuss the structure, alignment and the methods that matter and what processes product management should implement. If you’d like to share your experiences or would like to connect, you may contact me via email at jbhprivate(at)gmail(dot)com or on Twitter at jim_holland.

Thanks to Pragmatic Marketing for sharing their research, insights and graph.

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