Product Coaching 101
Product coaching helps everyone apply product thinking to their work, getting more effective in realizing business value sooner via better collaboration, faster learning and more creativity.
It is not restricted only to software development – in fact, product thinking can be applied by everyone in almost any environment, sometimes even outside of work. You will benefit from product thinking if you wish to improve your chances of make meaningful impact and thus become more effective at work. No matter which department you work for, we are all generating value for someone at the end of the day.
The groups that would especially benefit from product coaching include:
- Product leaders at all levels, from product managers to Chief Product Officers
- Product teams, or teams considering transitioning into product teams – especially engineering leads / UX / data analyst / business stakeholders
- Teams at every level of the organization hierarchy that would benefit from formulating a strategy
Embracing product thinking means finding the most cost-effective ways to solve the biggest problems, and maximizing customer value whilst realizing business value sooner.
For instance, successful product managers apply product thinking by co-creating with colleagues such as engineers, designers, data experts, business stakeholders, to source as many perspectives as possible. Together as a team, they find the best path to success, by navigating the uncertainties via continuous discovery of what they don’t know. We can see more visible progress via more frequent tests and prototypes, which means we learn and adapt quicker. It is indeed a win-win situation for everyone!
The goal of product coaching is to help everyone apply product thinking to their work, while enabling leaders to unlock their team’s full potential in a leadership style that is more empowering.
To reap benefits from product thinking, it requires us to develop new habits to constantly apply it and to discover areas where we were previously unaware that product thinking could help. Here are some examples:
- Staying focused on the work that brings the most value, instead of only reacting to requests
- Discovering opportunities constantly and intentionally whilst not spending too much time on overthinking
- Getting feedback early and include as many perspectives as possible in understanding the problems, instead of being focused on completing more tasks
- And many more!
Product thinking also enables more psychologically empowered teams thanks to the leadership styles that are heavily promoted by product thinking, compared to “command and control”-style leaders that tell people what to do. Self-organized teams applying product thinking are more satisfied as opposed to teams following a defined plan, as they are empowered to make decisions that maximize value to both the users and the business. And what drives satisfaction? Individual and team motivation. Which, according to Daniel H. Pink´s theory is led by autonomy, mastery and purpose. Three elements that are directly connected to product thinking and in our METRO.digital values (ownership, pragmatism, respect, and passion). Everything is connected!
At METRO.digital, we developed a special role – Product Coaches, who spread awareness, help product managers become better leaders, accompany teams in applying the best practices, and help teams and companies on this transformation journey. Product coaches provide hands-on support when accompanying product managers and product teams via 1:1 or team coaching, usually over a longer period. It is not just about sharing knowledge, as product coaches work with coaches to find ways in helping them apply the product thinking mindset and build good habits that stick, customized to their circumstances and unique challenges. Our Product Coaches are either seasoned product managers or experienced in facilitating discovery processes based on design thinking.
One might ask themselves, how different is Product Coaching from Agile coaching? Product Coaching and Agile Coaching share a similar profile and skillset – both train, mentor, and coach people to help product teams engage in continuous discovery and delivery processes to create products that customers love!
Product Coaches & Agile Masters implement product discovery habits to ensure delivery of valuable products to customers. Both convey knowledge and skills to product teams and business solutions, that helps to live their roles effectively, minimize waste and continuously improve based on data. Product Coaches & Agile Master have the goal of bringing business and tech together acting as one.
How are the roles different? Are they different? – short answer: slightly :)
In addition to the previously mentioned responsibilities, Product Coaches guide teams towards a clear strategy and data-driven organization. Further Product Coaches contribute to the overall product strategy and vision of METRO.digital.
Agile Master additionally support the domain management in developing the teams towards self-organization, protect teams from unnecessary disturbances. Agile Masters act as change agents on team, domain, and unit level as well as challenge the status quo and work on the systems in the organization.
Both are support functions that help the product teams build the right things and build the things right.
Ready to get better at applying product thinking? Ready to get further ahead in product management skills?
Don´t miss our last ingredient of success! Coming soon: our Product Coaches at METRO.digital are preparing a Product Manifesto, so stay tuned and check out our open positions!”
2. Leadership Styles and Psychological Empowerment: A Meta-Analysis - Carsten C. Schermuly, Laura Creon, Philipp Gerlach, Carolin Graßmann, Jan Koch, 2022 (sagepub.com)
3. Satisfaction, Practices, and Influences in Agile Software Development | Proceedings of the 22nd International Conference on Evaluation and Assessment in Software Engineering 2018 (acm.org)