In this short video, I walk through what decision-making looks like in a product trio. If you missed the first video in this series, be sure to check that out first: What’s a product trio?
You can watch the video or read a lightly edited transcript below.
Do product trios really work?
What do they do when they can’t agree?
Who really gets to make the decisions?
What does decision-making really look like in a product trio?
Many of us have never had the opportunity to experience true cross-functional collaboration so it can be hard to imagine what this looks like in practice. Let’s walk through an example.
Suppose a product manager, a designer, and an engineer are working together on a shared desired outcome.
They have several key decisions they need to make. What opportunities should they pursue? What solutions should they consider? What assumptions should they test? And, ultimately, what should they build?
Suppose this product trio works at your favorite streaming entertainment service (think Netflix, Hulu, or Disney+) and they are tasked with increasing subscriber engagement measured by average viewing minutes per week.
If the team jumps straight to generating solutions, they aren’t likely to agree. Each will have their own favorite ideas based on their individual preferences.
The product manager might be influenced by what key stakeholders have been asking for. The designer might be enamored with a new feature that a competitor recently rolled out. The engineer might be excited to try out a new API or use a new web framework. As a result, they might each suggest different solutions.
When people rely on different knowledge and experiences to make decisions, it’s hard to come to agreement on the best path forward.
When people rely on different knowledge and experiences to make decisions, it’s hard to come to agreement on the best path forward. – Tweet This
If, on the other hand, the trio starts by building a shared knowledge and experience base, they are more likely to work together to find the best path to their desired outcome.
So how does that work?
It starts with focusing on the customer. The team isn’t likely to reconcile their personal preferences about what they should build, but they can find alignment by developing a shared understanding of what their customers need and want.
Each product trio member should create an experience map that represents what they believe their target customer’s experience is today.
Because this team’s outcome is engagement over the course of a week, they might each draw what they think their customers’ experience is over that timeframe. Where, when, and how does streaming entertainment show up in their lives? What impact does it have?
From there, the trio should take the time to share their unique perspectives and co-create a new experience map that reflects their collective understanding of their customers’ experience today.
This first map, however, is just a guess. They need to test their understanding by interviewing customers together.
As they interview, their experience map should evolve based on what they are learning. They can use their experience map and their customers’ stories to help them identify unmet needs, pain points, and desires—collectively called opportunities. And they can use an opportunity solution tree to map out the opportunity space and get a big picture view of how they might reach their outcome.
When teams interview together and visually express their thinking—through both experience maps and opportunity solution trees—they develop their knowledge and expertise together.
When teams interview together and visually express their thinking—through both experience maps and opportunity solution trees—they develop their knowledge and expertise together. – Tweet This
When it comes time to decide which opportunities to pursue or which solutions to consider, they can tackle those decisions from a shared starting point—their understanding of their customers’ context (captured by their experience map) and their customers’ needs, pain points, and desires (captured by the opportunity space on their opportunity solution tree).
When we work from a shared understanding, it’s much easier to agree on the best path forward.
However, there will still be disagreements. The difference is the disagreements will not be based on our personal preferences. Instead, we might disagree on what we think the customer wants or needs. The good thing about these types of disagreements is that we can quickly resolve them by testing our differences.
So if you’ve never worked in a cross-functional product trio and are worried about who gets to make the decisions, remember to shift the focus from your individual preferences to working to collectively understand your customers’ context and unmet needs, pain points, and desires.
Use this new shared understanding as your starting point for group decision-making.
Keep at it and you’ll be a high-performing product trio before you know it.