One common mistake I have seen business leaders and executives make is to be too specific about goals and metrics. They might demand that product teams create or optimize for a particular button to be pressed. This is where the business is now interfering with the strategic nature of product teams, over-focusing on the tactical, and treating their teams as order takers.
This is where you need a strong person and critical thinker in a Product Management role, whether or not that is their title. Perhaps they are an Experience Strategist, Service Designer, or CX/UX Researcher. This person should be working with leaders from various domains, and possibly executives, to push back against these demands or peel away the layers of the onion. Executives might imagine that we should focus our efforts on this single button, but is anybody asking why or what we are really trying to achieve?
We must also consider our North Star Metric, which should be an early leading indicator of customer or user success. If the NSM is “get people to press this button more,” this is probably the wrong KPI. Teams and leaders should speak up about this rather than just accepting that their efforts will be aimed at raising the wrong number.
The Experience Strategist should capture key business goals and desired business outcomes. This might come from high-level leaders, strategists, or executives. These are likely to be broad and common goals such as increasing revenue, increasing customer satisfaction, more leads, more conversions, and higher retention. The business will have specific targets for these goals in a given quarter or year; next year, we expect our NPS to go up 15 points, conversion rate to go up 2%, and 5% higher retention than this year.
From there, leaders should trust their project teams to be close enough to our products, services, and target audiences to make the right decisions and arrive on the best mechanisms to achieve business and customer goals. Teams can research, strategize, prioritize, design, test, and iterate before Engineering writes a line of code or we experiment on the public. Teams will cycle their way to finding the best experiences they can create, solving customers’ problems while achieving business goals.
If you want to empower your project teams, the business must stay out of their day-to-day work and decisions. Project teams forced to be order takers might not enjoy their work, and might quit the first chance they get. They might find their work uncreative and not strategic, especially if they disagree with the orders they have been given. Great project teams are problem finders and problem solvers for the business, and potential and current customers.
Stop telling teams to make people click this button more. Don’t tell them exactly how a product page should lay out, how checkout should work, how people should save their money, or sign up for enterprise software. Give your teams the higher-level business goal, and let them find the best win-win scenarios for everybody in your internal and external ecosystem.