In a recent post, Marty Cagan described the three kinds of teams, and which kind of team is truly empowered.
Ok, Marty really only talked about two types of teams – product and feature. He only mentioned the first kind of team – delivery – briefly. Long enough to say that it is the most common team and the furthest from an empowered team.
“The most common in terms of sheer numbers are not really product teams at all, they are delivery teams. Also referred to as “dev teams” or “scrum teams” or “engineering teams” and if your company is running something like SAFe, then, unfortunately, this is you. In this situation, there are some number of developers and a product owner. The product owner in this model is what I refer to as a “backlog administrator.” Someone does need to do this administrative work, but this is all about delivering output, and it’s really very little to do with what I am concerned about in terms of the need for true, consistent innovation on behalf of our customers. I’ve written elsewhere about why this model is really just re-packaged waterfall and is not used at true tech product companies.” Product vs. Feature Teams by Marty Cagan
It occurred to me while reading the post that the vast majority of internal product teams fall into the delivery team model. Part of the reason could be that most of those organizations aren’t “true tech product companies.” Part of the reason could be that the result of these teams’ work is not directly sold to their organization’s customers.
Does that mean that teams working in this context can’t be empowered? I’m not convinced.
If your team works in an internal product situation can still be empowered if you (in Marty’s words) “solve problems in ways our customers love, yet work for our business.” This may mean that you enable processes that do this. This may mean that you build the website or apps that help your organization solve problems. This may mean that you build products that provide the right environment for others in your organization to be able to focus on solving your customers’ problems.
Of course, it’s not just up to the teams. Your organization needs to change to provide your team the ability to have more control over what you work on and how you approach that work.
Is that change easy? No.
Are there many organizations making the change they need to do? Not that many… yet.
But I’m not convinced it’s impossible.
Included below are links to three of Marty Cagan’s articles about empowered teams, along with a couple of perspectives that speak more to internal product situations.
If you have experience with building empowered teams in an internal product situation, I’d love to hear about them.
Empowered Product Teams
Culture is extremely important, but there is something about great product companies that is more fundamental and more specific. It really gets down to their views on their people, and how they should work together to solve problems. They tend to have empowered product teams.
Marty Cagan shares some important lessons he’s learned about this particular aspect of culture that makes such a profound difference in the results.
Product vs Feature Teams
According to Marty Cagan, in the tech world, there are really three distinct types of, loosely speaking, “product teams:” delivery teams, feature teams, and product teams. In this article, Marty explores the difference between feature and product teams and what makes product teams truly empowered.
Product Team FAQ
The previous article generated a lot of comments and questions, so Marty considered the questions, came up with a useful reply and shared those responses so that everyone with that question, including in the future, can hopefully benefit from the dialog.
The problem with project managers and product-based thinking
Once upon a time James King used to run projects. He was skeptical when he first encountered agile and reasoned that he could just steamroll scrum masters and product owners. That was until he encountered his first “real” product owner. (Someone who is more than a backlog administrator). He shared the story of what happened next on the way to building an empowered product team (though he doesn’t necessarily call it that).
How to Make Product Management for Enterprise Systems Work
Andreas Reichhart shares some of the lessons he’s learned building enterprise systems at Zalando – one of Europe’s leading online fashion platforms. In the past few years Zalando moved from a more traditional “internal IT setup” to a product-driven culture that develops industry-leading bespoke enterprise solutions.