5 Ways to Make Your Team More Productive as a Product Manager

Over the last years I was involved in many discussion around the topic “how can developers be more productive”. I heard people discussing endlessly about velocity, story points and amount of shipped features.

This articles assumes that you focus on delivering customer value rather than output, but it’s not describing it as such. If you struggle with this, I recommend you to read “Escaping the Build Trap”.

I summarized 5 methods, which I gathered and learned over the last years working as a product manager. It’s a list I feel is important in order to help the team to deliver the right outcome and keep them happy.

1. Explain the Why

As it’s explained in the awesome book “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek, you should focus the discussions and explanations within your team on the “why” question. In my experience, people become motivated and responsible if they understand why they are doing things. Additionally, this also forces you as product manager to think deeper about the actual client problems and how to transfer this to your team.

In a good team, you expect to get challenged on your thoughts to create a beneficial discussion.

2. Leave solutions to the team

One of the least productive approaches to take as a product manager is to dictate solutions to the developers. This is not just demotivating your team members, but also ignoring a lot of their skills.

I always try to give my teams a set of problems and goals and let them figure out how to solve this issue. It’s important to focus on the customer problem and explain this to your team — you will be surprised with how productive your engineers are when they have a clear understanding of the problem.

3. Protect with Priotization

A successful (and happy) team is able to deliver on commitments. There is always more work to do than you have time. And there will always be more work to do than you can achieve with your team or your company. Hence you have to focus on specific tasks and priorities.

A good product manager should be aware of this and protect their team with a strict task priotization. Align with your manager(s) on the expected goal(s) and challenge the planned product initiatives against those goals. Is this a task which will bring you closer to achieving the goal, then do it. If not, then you should de-prioritize it.

Also, communicate this to your team. Explain to them why you won’t do a specific task.

In my experience, developers are not the best at priotizing their work. Help them with it and they will pay it back with trust and delivering customer value!

4. Resolve obstacles early

That’s probably a no brainer — but help your team as soon as obstacles appear. Use the morning standup rituals in the morning to understand the blockers of your team members and offer them your help. I experienced a lot of cases where developers get stuck because of tiny things they couldn’t resolve by themselves.

Usually as a product manager you have the power to help developers. For example, you may have direct communication with the client, to the business, or you just have more power in making decisions. If you remove those obstacles early, you will help your team to stay productive and to deliver more customer impact.

5. Involve tech items in your normal work stream

Kanban, Scrum, Shape Up — you name it. Whatever framework (or hybrid) you decide to use, always involve the “tech items” in your normal work stream. I have experienced situations where the technical tasks were supposed to get created and prioritised in a separate work stream. Besides ending up in an unconnected wish list, this also ended up with unsatisfied product managers and a lack of distinction between tech and business goals.

I strongly believe that every tech goal and initiative should fulfil the purpose of the business. Thats the reason why I always engage with developers to put the tech items into the normal planning and priorization work stream. Trust the engineers if they bring up topics. Challenge the tech initiatives against your business goals and have an open discussion with the team. This will also help you as a product manager to increase your knowledge and understand your team.

Summary & Further Reads

Summary

I hope those tools help you to form a happier team and more productive team, which will increase the value for your customers. Try out the tools and use the whatever ends up working for you and your team.

Not everything will work, and that’s okay — it’s still better than the alternative of doing nothing.

Further Reads

Books:

Start with Why (Simon Sinek)

Escaping the Build Trap (Melissa Perri)

Articles:

https://richmironov.medium.com/how-product-can-and-cant-speed-up-development-8f315692ac61

https://medium.com/swlh/the-difference-between-a-group-of-people-and-a-team-6e8b24b23dc9