Balancing the 8 floors of the leaning tower of product
When you’re leading a product team, product group, or even a product squad, you’re going to face problems around 8 areas. Choosing which to focus at any given time will differentiate success from failure.
I call them the 8 floors of the leaning tower of product (as a homage to Pisa’s very own). Each floor has the power to unbalance your whole structure, and make it crash. But solving top-floor problems when you have bottom-floor issues will still send it to the ground.
Here are the 8 areas you need to constantly audit and solve for, in recommended order:
𝐂𝐮𝐥𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐚𝐥: what is the mindset, principles and atitude of your team? Are they enabling good discovery and delivery processes? Are they feeling empowered to execute on their own, at high speed?
𝐀𝐧𝐚𝐥𝐲𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐥: how good is instrumentation and measurement? How good is your team using data to make decisions? How good is the data?
𝐑𝐞𝐟𝐥𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞: how much does past knowledge influence future decisions? How much retrospection happens in between planning?
𝐂𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐛𝐫𝐞: how high is the quality bar? What is the execution level your team expects from themselves? How driven is each person to make their execution world-class?
𝐄𝐱𝐞𝐜𝐮𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥: how good is the team at dealing with tactical issues? What’s blocking everyone from doing 2x more in half the time?
𝐎𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥: how fluid is the process to ship and iterate? How autonomous are teams at learning, deciding and kickstarting execution? How low is the overhead of ongoing processes?
𝐎𝐫𝐠𝐚𝐧𝐢𝐬𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥: where are the leaky buckets in your team? Who’s pushing who? Who is in the wrong role? Who is de-motivated or under-utilised?
𝐒𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐠𝐢𝐜: how tied is the plan with the vision? What are the guiding lights or north stars for each area? How understood is the reasoning behind your product decisions?
You’re always able to optimise each area, but you won’t have time to tackle all of them at the same time. Find the weakest link, starting from the bottom, and prioritise solving it. Then keep climbing up.