Joe Leech

S1 E5 Martin Eriksson Product Leadership Author, Founder of ProductTank

Martin is co-Founder of both ProductTank and Mind the Product – together, the world’s largest product community. He’s also co-author of the best-selling book, Product Leadership: How Top Product Managers Launch Awesome Products and Build Successful Teams.

We talk decision making at 10 people, 100 and 1000. Leadership and decisions. Alignment with the senior c-suite, product leadership and decision making.

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(NB this is autogenerated so please forgive the odd typo)

Joe: [00:00:00] Hi Martin, how are you doing? 

[00:00:01] Martin: [00:00:01] I’m good. Thanks. How are you doing? 

[00:00:04]Joe: [00:00:04] Tell us a little bit about you, your background, where you’ve come from, where you are now.

[00:00:08] Martin: [00:00:08] So I’ve been a product manager for longer than I want to think about it. Sometimes I’ve had the type of, for over 20 years. I’ve been building stuff online for over 25. So it started kind of mid nineties just as the web was blowing up. 

[00:00:22] I’ve been a product manager for both startups and, you know, midsize enterprise companies. and then most recently been doing a lot of work with startups, both, as the chief product officer, you’re often the kind of first senior product person brought into a company taking over from the founders.

[00:00:36] And then for the last couple of years, helping, a. Venture firm called EQT ventures on all of their portfolio companies with kind of product challenges and how to design product organizations. It’s like that in a parallel life. I started product tank as a meetup for other product people, started with 25 people in the back, grew up a pub in London that has grown to over 200 cities around the world now.

[00:00:57]and we spun out my new product out of that, which is a conference and content series. And. Together, there are the world’s largest community for product people. And somewhere in there, I seem to have found the time to coauthor a book. it was two good friends about product leadership as well. 

[00:01:12]Joe: [00:01:12] it’s such a varied, a long career in terms of what have you ever think you’ve done in product? It’s so interesting to meet somebody who’s been doing product for a lot longer. Cause I think a lot of the listeners and a lot of our product managers, I speak to certainly value, been involved in doing it for three, four, five years.

[00:01:26] So it’s wonderful to speak to you about that. You know, the, the, the experience you’ve had in doing that. Great, 

[00:01:31] Martin: [00:01:31] fantastic. All the horrible things that we used to do 10 years ago, 20 years ago, we hopefully aren’t doing anymore. 

[00:01:38] Joe: [00:01:38] Well, it’s all about learning as you go along. I think that a lot of the listeners will understand that you kind of, you read about things in books, then the reality of actually doing it in real life can be a very, very different experience.

[00:01:48] Absolutely. okay. So you wrote in the book about, it’s a fantastic book. It is the book on product leadership, by the way. It’s not a book is the book absolutely. On this. you talk about, and you mentioned kind of the stuff in that book around, cause again, we’re talking about product decisions here in decision making you talk about, about team structure as part of that and how leadership feeds into product decision making.

[00:02:10] Can you talk a little bit more about that? 

[00:02:11] Martin: [00:02:11] Yeah, I think fundamentally, my. Our, our big belief. And what we really tried to emphasize in the book is that the only way to build great products is to. Give autonomy to our teams. And the reason that’s so important is ultimately our teams we’re doing our jobs correctly, are going and speaking to customers that are closer to the market.

[00:02:30] They’re close to the customers are closer to the data than we are. They have way more information than we do, and therefore they can simply make better decisions than we can. So why are we telling them what to do when they have more information than we do? and that’s really the number that I think about thinking around how we.

[00:02:45] Now organized teams in order to empower those teams to make those decisions. 

[00:02:52] Joe: [00:02:52] Right. Wonderful. And I think it’s that empowerment, empowering the team to make decisions, giving them that autonomy that allows them to make those decisions themselves, that post to the customer. They’re more able to do that decision making.

[00:03:05] What then does leadership in how then should leadership be involved in that decision making? What should they do in terms of action? How should they be steering those decisions? What sort of. How, how can they help steer the team in the right direction for making decisions? 

[00:03:18] Martin: [00:03:18] Yeah, I think that’s a great question.

[00:03:20] Cause I think a lot of people here autonomy, and I think that means there is no role for leadership anymore. What do we need? You know, middle management and leadership for the teams are making all the decisions and really, it just emphasizes, different skills. That’s in different requirements from, from our leaders and it really falls into two buckets for me.

[00:03:37] So one is about coaching. So obviously. There is a, a really big role for leaders to play in coaching core product skills and, competencies, getting those teams better at making decisions, helping them coach through challenges, or when they’re faced with tough decisions that they might want help with all of those kinds of coaching mentalities, but also, the other bucket really is around alignment.

[00:04:00] Right? So making sure that, especially as you grow beyond one team, which you never really will in any product organization, making sure that they are. Not budding up against each other, still aligned towards the same goals, heading in the same direction and focused on the same ultimate vision mission started doing company goals as the other teams in the organization.

[00:04:22] Joe: [00:04:22] I like that. So that’s the idea that then that, that coaching is giving them the, I don’t always like that term, but that soft skills, the skills you need to better manage the, as a product manager, better manage the teams. You’re involved with the skills in terms of day to day, managing of a product, that stuff that kind of, you can only really get from learning from somebody else.

[00:04:40]I like that. And as well as that, that way that the leaders don’t align. Alongside the business lines of what that, what those teams should be doing. So all teams are putting in the right direction, all have got a shared vision and a shared understanding of where that organization wants to go and is going.

[00:04:54] Martin: [00:04:54] Yeah. And one of the keys I think, is minimizing dependencies as well. Cause I think that’s the other challenge generally, when you do start giving autonomy to teams is inevitably you have to also figure out how to minimize dependencies between the teams. So that’s another leadership role to make sure that if a team is.

[00:05:12] If two teams are touching the same bit of the product or code that they are working together in order to resolve, that they’re, you know, not going into different directions based on customer research, that they’ve seen things like that. So that alignment piece becomes a huge part of the role of communicating and making sure that those teams know what everyone else is doing without kind of having to go do that work themselves.

[00:05:33] Joe: [00:05:33] And can you talk to an example of where this has happened? Have you got any examples of either of the people you’ve worked with previously or stories you’ve heard of, of this 

[00:05:41] Martin: [00:05:41] inaction? Yeah, I mean, I have a couple of favorite examples probably in, some that we used in the book. So one of my favorite examples is a startup, here in London called transfer was, they definitely took the autonomist teams to, concept to the kind of degree and to the point where one of my favorite things about them is there.

[00:06:00] Taking that, concept of minimizing dependencies to the extreme as well. And thinking about what, what that means. So, an example is actually one of the teams they have called the currencies team, which is the team that decides what new currency paths to launch. So when they launched pounds to dollars, this was the, the team that decided to do that and implemented that.

[00:06:17] And in any normal organization, that team would, you know, they would have to go to the legal department and. Figure out what are the requirements that we have for, you know, new contracts and new terms and conditions and, you know, new incorporation that we might need in the us. And then once that process is done and prioritized by, the legal department, then that you have to go to the banking department and open up bank accounts, you know, that we all recognize this, like, Siloed a process that any other normal organization would have, but TransferWise instead kind of said, screw that we’ll put a banker and a lawyer in that team.

[00:06:48] So they have design, they have product, they had engineering, they had a banker and a lawyer, and literally had no dependencies outside the team that can make all the decisions, make all the implementation, requirements that they had and just execute, their plans towards their goals. So I think that’s one of the best examples I’ve seen of kind of really thinking about what it means to make a team.

[00:07:08] Minimize dependencies. Cause it’s just about the tech stack. It is also about the organizational and operational requirements I might have around them. And then, and I think the other example I have is, my coauthor Nate Walkingshaw was until very recently the chief experience officer for a company called Pluralsight, which does online technology training.

[00:07:28] And they got to the point where I think they had 700 people in the product design and engineering work all in kind of these small completely awesome, some powered squads of seven to 10 people. all pulling in the same direction and always he got it to a multibillion dollar business that IPO a few years ago and things like that.

[00:07:47] So showing that it can also be done at scale. 

[00:07:52] Joe: [00:07:52] and so talking about some of those bigger decisions that, and I mean, surely that that transfer wise team, they must have had some checks in with. Making that big making large sort of business decisions like that. So again, there’s that question of making product decisions?

[00:08:06] Like, you know, what features should the tech team build next? We’re kind of, we talk about, that’s talked about quite a lot, but it’s this, this, that concept almost within the team of making then a business decision around what that organization should do next. Can you talk any more to that side? 

[00:08:20] Martin: [00:08:20] Yeah, I think there’s so this is.

[00:08:22] A concept that I’m starting to develop an and might be talking about a lot more going forward, which I talked about the decisions back. And you could also think about it as the alignments doc. It’s really thinking about how to make sure that the whole organization is in alignment with each other. Cause I think we’re not talking.

[00:08:38] What we’re talking about here is not actually okay. Product decision. It’s a strategy decision, right? And I think when you’re setting strategy, that is a conversation that might have to happen at a higher level than the team. But once the strategy is in place and it’s not about micromanagement, but once the strategies in place that should give the team enough information and freedom to be able to execute towards that strategy because the currency’s team in this example knows what transfer strategy is.

[00:09:01] They know what the vision is. They know what the goals are for the company this year, or this quarter. That should be enough if it’s, if that’s clearly communicated enough and that’s well designed and Oh, created with the whole organization, then those pieces should be enough for them to make those decisions, right?

[00:09:17] Like, is the dollar currency path more important than the. you know, South African Rand currency path. Well, it, they have more information about that tradeoff of, okay, well, it’s going to take us this long to do the Rand versus this long to do dollar is the market sizing. They’re much closer to actually being able to make that actual decision based on their knowledge of the strategy and based on their knowledge of the market and the conditions that they’re going into.

[00:09:40] So really for me, the higher order decision. Is still something that product teams should be able to do as long as there is a clear set of kind of vision, mission and strategy in place that gives them guidelines of what it is that’s important to the organization and what the organization believes is the right strategy to be approached.

[00:10:00] Right. And TransferWise example, was it about user growth or was it revenue growth that might influence that decision, but ultimately it was the current currency’s team decision to do, to pick which currency to go after, because that was their product area. And I guess 

[00:10:16] Joe: [00:10:16] what’s interesting about that is the way you talk about alignment there is, is, is that if this kind of top down, so, so, you know, we give you the skills, go ahead, currency team, go and make that choice about which currency to go for next.

[00:10:27] But of course I’m guessing that that alignment is a two way street. Isn’t it? It’s not just alignment from the top down it’s alignment from the bottom up. So it’s not like that team and making that decision and not. Not keeping the business informed about what they’re doing, if you’ve got any insights.

[00:10:41] So on, on that, about how, again, from a bottom up point of view, you can start lining further up the organization to make sure that that, that, that. Yeah, your boss and your boss’s boss is aligned with what you’re doing. Can you talk any more to that? 

[00:10:54] Martin: [00:10:54] Yeah, I think one of the interesting things as I’ve been developing the decisions doc and talking about it with people is there’s this kind of a hard moment when you realize when you see it in a literal kind of stack form, you know, so there’s an enrichment, the top strategy objectives, the opportunities you’re going after you realize that actually what you’re asking it every step down is.

[00:11:12] How are we going to do that? Right. So you might’ve set your vision. Okay. How are we going to achieve that? Well, here’s a strategy that we believe will get us towards that vision. Okay. How are we gonna achieve the strategy? Well, here’s the goals that we’re setting for this year, but at the same time, You can also see it from a bottom up perspective by asking why, right.

[00:11:27] So why are we doing this? Well, we think it aligns to this goal, or why are we trying to achieve that goal where we think of aligns to the strategy? Why are we trying to achieve that? Well, it aligns to this vision and if those don’t line up and obviously mismatching and that’s where inevitably you will have challenges, but I think that’s almost the beauty of it is that it does to your point, work from bottom up as much as top down.

[00:11:49] And it isn’t at all about. Having leadership kind of create this and the hand it down from Omaha has stone tablets, right? For the team, I kind of go, here’s my here’s your strategy. Go and execute. It is very much something that’s co-created throughout the organization and the best organizations at least.

[00:12:05] And it is very much something that the product teams or, you know, whatever level of the organization should definitely feel free to challenge at any time about like, well, why are we doing that? Would advise this go. Well, I think this could actually align better because the more transparent you are about.

[00:12:19] Every step of that stack, the more empowerment you give your teams to kind of challenge the decisions that you’re making along the way again, because they have more information than we do about what’s actually happening and what’s actually going to work on the ground. And so I think ultimately it does come down to communication, right?

[00:12:36] And I think that’s one of the often overlooked roles of both product end of leadership of. Clarity of communication. And I think we’ve, we’ve had a few people speak about that at mind, the product over the years, but I think it’s something that just, we keep need, people need to talk about. And we need to think a lot about as product people are like, how do we, how do we communicate better?

[00:12:57] How do we ensure clarity of that communication? And that really comes from ensuring that the audience has understood what it is that we’re trying to communicate. Right. It’s not enough to just do the broadcast model anymore and just go, here’s what we’re doing. And then kind of, you know, Go sailing in the Caribbean or something, and assume that everyone’s gonna understand exactly what that perfect vision was.

[00:13:15] It is a constant back and forth conversation to make sure that everyone’s aligned. Everyone’s still pulling in the right direction that, you know, as you’re learning new things, obviously you might have to change that strategy. The, all of these things change at different cadences as well. So it’s a constant back and forth communication and really trusting your teams means that you’re also trusting the input and feedback that they’re giving back to you about.

[00:13:36] What’s not working in that strategy or what’s not working in that vision. 

[00:13:42] Joe: [00:13:42] Cause I really love that concept of cocreation. You talked about there where this has co-created with. Across the organization. No, from the, from the product team up to this senior executives, you cocreate the approach. So everybody’s comfortable with the way it works.

[00:13:54] Cause I’m guessing if you’re a product leader now and you’re listening to this, you know, maybe you’re probably you’re in a top down organization where you tell your teams what to do, but the thought of then going to the opposite or the CME opposite, extreme, where you empower your team and they go and do stuff equally as scary because it’s like, well, if they do that, well, if they’re not doing the right thing, how do I keep tabs on them?

[00:14:13] So it’s that. I liked what you talked about. That way of just the constant communication up and down throughout the organization to make sure alignments happening. So small frequent communication. Check-ins not like a monthly or quarterly. It’s like a, almost a daily or a weekly check in with to make sure everything’s going in the right direction.

[00:14:30] So of course, corrections easier. And I think as a, as a leader moving from, you know, you want to move from. No top down, we’ll tell you what to do to empower your teams, but making that shift is quite a shift also in your mentality to do it, not just organizationally. Can you talk about any, any time any leaders have sort of had to make that shift and how that’s gone for them?

[00:14:51] Have you got any insights into that? 

[00:14:53] Martin: [00:14:53] It’s hard, right? I think all, all of us are. You know, it actually, it ties very much back into the kind of solution versus problems focused that we also have as a challenge as product people, right. It’s very easy and very comfortable to jump to solutions. Right. We love fixing problems.

[00:15:07] That’s probably why we are product people more. We are UX people. We, we love jumping in and coming up with solutions and we love. Feeling brilliant when we’ve come up with a great solution. But as we’ve seen, hopefully over the last several years, like actually more important to focus on the problem and cocreate with the team, what that solution could be.

[00:15:24] And I think it’s, it’s very analogous to that because as product leaders, we should feel too often, or we do feel often that we want to challenge our leaders on, well, why are we doing this work? Right. So we can only imagine that. Our teams are probably feeling the same thing about us, right. Well, why are we doing this work?

[00:15:40] Like what, what is the purpose of this? Why does this tie out into our goals? Why is this important? So I think it’s just recognizing that the more we can involve everybody in the team, in the process, the better the outcome’s going to be any lane. And I think it’s something we all struggled with it, right?

[00:15:55] Like I still struggle with it in our own team of mind, the product of like giving that autonomy. When I, I feel like I have a great idea. I want to jump in and give that solution. But. I know as the founder, if I jump in and give a solution, people are just going to go do that thing because they think the founder said, so no matter how much work I’ve been putting into trying and making it autonomous and empowered and trusting team.

[00:16:14] So it’s a, it’s a constant exercise in self reflection and kind of self checking to be. No, when your, when your idea might be worth putting in as a suggestion versus stepping back and letting the team get there themselves kind of thing. And I think the biggest difference is actually with rethinking how we set goals, right?

[00:16:33] So, I think as organizations traditionally, even with, okay, cars are trying to implement OKR is it’s very easy to slip back into kind of a command and control structure, right? Where you’re thinking about, well, here’s the goals, therefore, you know, team X, you have to achieve Y by the end of the quarter, or you will have mr.

[00:16:50] Goals kind of things. And as soon as we start handing down those goals, we are, even if we’re not, you know, micromanaging the solution, we’re still micromanaging the team of what they should be heading towards. If we can start to change that mentality, that one about commitment, then you still have the same kind of oversight of that, whatever, whether it’s okay or structure or goals or other things to check that you’re heading in the right direction.

[00:17:11] But it’s, you’re giving the team that empowerment to kind of commit to how, what they want to work towards, what they think is the most important metric and what they think they can do in that timeframe. If it’s quarterly planning or annual planning or whatever. And I think that’s actually the biggest shift that we need to do is, is moving from.

[00:17:27] Command and control, which implies that kind of top down structure and telling the teams what to do and really moving to a commitment point where you’re saying, well, here’s our goals. a was a giving room for those goals to be challenged and, and have a conversation. And then cocreation of what the goals are in the first place.

[00:17:42] And then be definitely letting the team figure out, okay, well, if that’s the company goal, what can we in this team and the product area that we own contribute towards that goal? Like what is the thing that we can do? In our product area, to help achieve that. And therefore come back with a commitment of saying, well, we think we can do X, deliver Y results or outcome in the next quarter, that kind of approach, as opposed to, top down approach.

[00:18:06] And again, that still gives you the oversight that still gives you as a leader. You know, that the teams are heading in the right direction. You can keep them accountable to those commitments, things like that, but it’s something that they’re driving. They own themselves. Instead of being told. 

[00:18:20] Joe: [00:18:20] I like that approach that I, the idea of moving from commander control to giving the team the commitment to do it.

[00:18:26] So moving from do this to the team, setting the team, OKR objectives and key results, things that they’re going to be measured against, which I guess gives them the commitment to the problem space there they’re involved with, to come up with those solutions. So it’s that shift from other than setting them, Hey, build this thing too.

[00:18:43] Here are some. objectives. We want you to reach here’s the measurements we want you to do along the way. Here’s the problem safe we’re trying to solve. So rather than again, classically, we always talk about this rather than giving them a solution to build your you’re pointing about the right problem to solve.

[00:18:56] And that’s the way to think about that, that mental shift from top down to bottom up. And I really liked that approach. And how far could you take that? So you talk about. We talked about TransferWise choosing a different currency, how far, and, you know, obviously the conversation’s got to have them top down, bottom up from that.

[00:19:14] Could the, I mean, have you ever come up with a challenge where there’s too much detail being communicated up and down? Like, you know, should we be, should the button be blue or green boss? What do you think it should be? Can you talk to any more around that perhaps where this, it almost goes too far and there’s too much communication about what the team are working on.

[00:19:32] Martin: [00:19:32] Yeah, I think it’s, it’s the tricky point is whenever you’re trying to transition into this, or when you’re building a new org, because ultimately for this to work, you have to build trust, right? And so the leaders have to trust the team. The team can make the decision between blue and green and the team have to trust that they make the decision.

[00:19:48] They’re not going to be questioned. Why, why they chose blue over green, everything else. So, I think it comes back as well. Two part of that stack for me is. Having a very clear set of product principles or values that again is across the organization. Everyone’s kind of agreed on, well, we focus on these things.

[00:20:04] I’m part of that can be, you know, things like style guide so that you don’t have to have that conversation about blue versus green. Every time you’ve kind of had that set once and okay with the buttons are blue. We know that, I think the other part of that is, is really building an evidence driven culture.

[00:20:17] And I think that’s how you drive, that trust as well of making it about evidence so that nobody feels like they have to ask whether the. Button should be blue or green in an ideal world. They should just be able to test that AB tested or whatever, figure out which one performs better and always say that’s the right choice.

[00:20:33] Because at the end of the day, the customer always breaks that time. And really, I think one of the biggest things I’m trying to combat with all of these is the concept of the hippo in the room, right? So the highest paid person’s opinion and kind of getting away from that. And inevitably, and because I work with startups a lot, if you have no data, it’s going to come down to an opinion.

[00:20:53] Then if it comes down to the opinion, it’s going to be the founder’s opinion. That matters. Cause they’re the balls. They are have the most at risk, they sign the checks. However you want to define that. But if you bring data to the table, most founders, most CEOs, most product leaders will be totally understanding that data.

[00:21:08] And they’ll be like, okay, great. So we have either qualitative or quantitative evidence that shows us why it should be this way. Great. And that builds that trust. So over time, the more you build that trust the less you have to prove why you’re making decisions as well. And the less you have to communicate some of those details, I think.

[00:21:23]but I think in that initial phase, there is definitely. Usually an overabundance communication, which is probably needed to show the trust. Cause I think one of the biggest ways that we can earn that trust is to show the work right, and to show why we’ve made decisions and show that there is evidence and data behind those decisions.

[00:21:38] And not just my guess, my gut, my intuition. I 

[00:21:45] Joe: [00:21:45] mean, I really like that concept of building an evidence driven culture at that point where. Everything is backed up by evidence. So it gets to a point where, you know, the first few times you have that conversation with your boss as a product manager, you present the evidence for why you’re making that choice.

[00:21:58] And then those conversations become not needed as much because you know, the trust is there because they know that you’ve done the homework almost to make sure there is evidence, the choice you’re trying to make. I really love that concept of building an evidence driven cultures. 

[00:22:10] Martin: [00:22:10] And that’s, I think that’s why we tend to over debate prioritization.

[00:22:13] Right? Because like it’s one of the things, product people love, debating, like why, what are the what’s the best prioritisation framework. And how do you prioritize I think ultimat for me, l the framework is almost less important about what result comes out of it. It’s more that you build a framework that people, everyone else in the organization trusts, right?

[00:22:30] So you have a clear way of why you’ve made decisions. And again, that’s part of this whole stack of having clarity of why this team over here that’s next to me, but I might not be talking to every single day. I know why they make the decisions that you’re making. Cause they’re aiming towards these goals.

[00:22:44] They align with my goals. It all makes sense. Right? I think it’s when that starts breaking down, that we get, we start questioning each other and it becomes very opinionated. It becomes very office politics driven. but the more we build that trust in the more we kind of focus it all on a framework of decision making that everyone is using a similar framework and everyone knows why those decisions are being made.

[00:23:05] You kind of inevitably just start trusting each 

[00:23:08] Joe: [00:23:08] other. Right.  So that it’s like you say, it’s less about that framework is more about the results that that framework gives and the trust within the framework is going to give you results or has previously given you results to get out there.

[00:23:19]So can you talk a bit then about the work you do because I’m guessing this must be a challenge. If you’re a startup founder, moving into say a scale up, you’ve just got some funding. Your organization’s got to change and you’ve got to move from being commander control where you’ve.

[00:23:34] The reason you’ve got your business to assess it is now is probably around gut-feel, you know, you’ve had that intuition to design the product in the first place. now is the point where you’ve got to, you’ve got to change the money’s come in. The organization’s got to scale, it’s got to grow. you need to put these, these things in place.

[00:23:49] Can you talk to that at all? Do you get involved in much with that? 

[00:23:52] Martin: [00:23:52] Yeah, I think, I mean, over the last, nearly three years now that I’ve been kind of a CPO in residence with  ventures, I’ve been emboldened almost every. One of our portfolio companies in this exact phase. And it’s a concept startup journey.

[00:24:06] As you say, in one that we’re, I’ve been the first product leader, at least twice, and a startup and taken over from a founder. And I think. In the early days, especially when I was doing it myself, probably I did feel like, Oh, my, my job was to get the founder, right. Outer product. Cause they don’t understand product.

[00:24:21] And let me do the job and let me set the product, vision and strategy and things like that. But now over the last or the work I’ve been doing over the last three years is much more about finding the balance between the founder and the product person that you bring in. And I think historically, a lot of startups have felt like they have to go hire a super senior VP product or CPO at that very first stage.

[00:24:41] Right. They’ve raised their a round. they, they do need a product person and they think they have to go hire, you know, an ex Facebook, Google, Uber person, whatever company they admire. and inevitably that’s actually the wrong move. Right. That’s too senior person to bring in that early. and it’s all about finding a balance where as you say, the intuition and insight, the founder had is still incredibly valuable because there was something that got them to this stage.

[00:25:08] And that Insight’s important to get them to the next stage as well. So they should still be involved in the strategy. They should still be involved in the product vision, but really what we’re working on is getting them out of the day to day product execution piece. Right. And really professionalizing that to the point we’ve been talking about around, how do you build a framework about decision making?

[00:25:25] How do you build alignment between quickly growing teams? Things like that. And so it’s finding the right balance. And, and really what I do a lot of is actually encouraging startups to hire a senior product manager instead as their first hire. So somebody who’s done product definitely has a product experience.

[00:25:42] Definitely has, you know, the experience of making product decisions, working with, to design and develop to do that, wants to take that next step up. But, Can still be a hands on product manager, right? So it can still lead. The team can still work on the day to day decisions that have to happen while taking some vision direction from the founder.

[00:26:01] And then slowly over time, hopefully proving that they’re ready to be the head of product, VP, CPO, whatever you want to call it. As the team starts scaling, they can then take on more and more of the team and management pieces. 

[00:26:13] Joe: [00:26:13] I really liked that idea that like you say that it shouldn’t be a sudden jump from one to another.

[00:26:17] It shouldn’t be a sudden jump from, you know, founder intuition, founder expertise to, you know, a, a bottom up product approach is that it’s got to be a balance, has got to be set as you make that journey. You can’t happen suddenly overnight. You move from one to another because that’s not going to work very well for them.

[00:26:34] For the product person coming in, it’s not going to work very well for the founder. Both of them are going to struggle with that, that situation. So it’s got to be balanced, I guess that evolves over time. It’s not like you can move from classic top down to, to, you know, this, these aligned teams from a Friday to a Monday, you can’t suddenly do that sort of thing.

[00:26:50] And I really liked that concept and that idea. 

[00:26:52] Martin: [00:26:52] Yeah. Realistically, I think if you look at, sorry, I think if you look at startups, right? I think that the founder. Attorney originally, it’s not really command and control, right? It’s, it’s five people sitting around a table that started to start up for three people, right?

[00:27:04] So they are working, they are cocreating and collaborating and doing all these things. Because it’s actually really easy to do when it’s three people around a table or around a zoom call as we are all today. and then it’s inevitably managing the transition from that to 20 people, 30 people, a hundred people where you have to start building a process for how you make these decisions so that not for the sake of process, like I hate process, but just enough process that you know, why you’re making decisions. Everyone knows, understands why that decision has been made. Doesn’t have to question it, you start building that trust, you start building that evidence driven culture.

[00:27:39] That’s really what you need, that first product person to come in and help you do. 

[00:27:44] Joe: [00:27:44] I really liked that concept. That’s the idea, because again, you start to say that that put, when you’re growing from. Five to 10 to 20 to 30 as a founder, your role is going to change. You’re not just managing the product, you’re managing the business and that’s a different, a different, you know, different set of skills, a different set of processes to get that right.

[00:27:59] So one of the things we like to do on the podcast is talk here about when decisions don’t go so well when things haven’t gone. Well, the decision hasn’t gone as well as you’d hoped it to be. Is there any experiences that you’ve got from your career about when something hasn’t gone? 

[00:28:13] Martin: [00:28:13] Wow. I think all product people have many, many examples of that.

[00:28:17]I mean, I definitely have several startups that have been involved in that. I haven’t gone my well where I’ve, I’ve been the product leader and been responsible for it not going very well. and I think ultimately the lessons I’ve learned from that is. It’s really comes back to that evidence different culture.

[00:28:33] Right. And it really comes back to not listening to your gut or the founder’s gut or insight or intuition, but really how do you build an evidence driven culture that focuses on customer needs? All the things that we talk about, but there’s a reason why we keep talking about them right. About. Constantly going and talking to your customer, having those interactions, getting that qualitative insight, getting the quantitative insight so that you drove decisions, based on that rather than what you think might be the right approach.

[00:29:00]and really, I can’t think of an example that hasn’t been tied back to one of those two things. Ultimately I think definitely there have been organizational challenges. There’ve been office politics and things as well, but fundamentally. Whenever I’ve been involved in a startup or a product decision that hasn’t gone well, it’s because we didn’t do enough research and didn’t understand the customer problem.

[00:29:20] Well enough. That’s interesting.

[00:29:23] Joe: [00:29:23] Again, that’s been a definite common theme throughout this really that the decisions haven’t gone well, haven’t been evidenced enough. Haven’t got that insight that’s needed in terms of getting that. So that’s, it’s interesting that you’ve really found the same, same sorts of, and seeing the same sorts of problems in your career as well.

[00:29:37] Great. Well, thank you very much for your time today, Martin, we’re pretty much finished. Is there somewhere, is there places similar can go? People can go find more about you. Where can they get the book? Where can they read more about what you’re writing? Where can they find out more about you? 

[00:29:48] Martin: [00:29:48] So they can find out more about me, Martin

[00:29:51] That’s K w S O and then obviously at mind the product, our home, we have all of our other content and conferences and, 

[00:30:01] Joe: [00:30:01] and is a conference coming up? Isn’t that? You’ve got one coming up. 

[00:30:04] Martin: [00:30:04] Yeah, we have one coming up in November. our MTP con digital summer conference went so well in replacing our San Francisco conference that we decided to do the same thing for London.

[00:30:13] And that’ll be on the 18th and 19th of November. 

[00:30:18] Joe: [00:30:18] Great. I’m looking forward to it. I’m I’m I’m I’m going so I’m, I’m very, very excited about candy now. So I’m really excited about that. 

[00:30:23] Martin: [00:30:23] Yeah, it was was having you. 

[00:30:26] Joe: [00:30:26] Great. Well, thanks again for your time. Artist’s been fantastic. Thanks so much for your insights.

[00:30:30] Thank you. 

[00:30:30] Martin: [00:30:30] Thanks for having me. I look forward to hearing everything else that you uncover through this series. 

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I'm Joe Leech and I 10x leaders, the business and the products and services they create. I bring 15 years in tech, $20b in revenue, experience with 30+ startups & FTSE100 / Fortune100 giants. Together we can do great things. Work with me.

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