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This question is specific to new product development.

I am part of a medium size organization. In our organization, our executive team sets the product strategy. Once the product strategy is set, a product manager is assigned to work with a cross-functional, cross-departmental team. Together, the PM and these department managers or assistant managers become the "product team."

I've advocated that the product teams should be treated like a board of directors or an advisory committee. The product manager should drive what needs to be driven with the individual that it's relevant to. So, each department is like a spoke, the PM is like the hub, and the product team is like the outside of the wheel where everything is shared for clarity. In the weekly or every two week product team meetings, a typical meeting would look like, "I'm working with John in Sales to develop a sales strategy. This is what we're looking at now; we continue to refine. Do you have any feedback? This week I'm going to work with Bob in legal and Susan in accounting to make sure our agreements are buttoned up. Could you recommend the best way to accomplish this? Am I doing the right thing? Do you think there needs to be any course correction? etc" I realize that those are a bunch of "i" sentences. Ultimately, I believe the product manager should maintain control of the timeline and maintain responsibility for the success of the project.

The opposing camp's view would treat the product team like a committee where all major decision making is done by consensus (while minor decisions are left to the departmental representative): "What have we all done this week?" John from Sales would say, "I've worked on a sales strategy, but I forgot to print it out..." Bob in legal would have actually done his work. Susan in accounting would say, "I'm not sure I understand." Tom in operations would say, "Have we thought about how we are going to provide customer support once we've launched this product?" To which the account managers say, "You know, you're right? Why don't we wait on [doing anything that we can actually do now] and talk about that more. Let's set that as the agenda item for next week." The power dynamics would have sidelined the PM's ability to say, "No, we need to focus on this now. While the support issue is important, it's not important right now."

I also understand that if you are going to work in a committee like this, the "forming" stage of the team is important to define how to deal with situations like that and agreeing on how you're going to approach your work, a timeline.

My questions for the community are:

  1. Who is involved in the new product development process in your organizations? Are product teams typical, or is it normally in the hands of the product department to work one on one with each of the departments (to be the hub of the spoke)?
  2. If you have product teams, how does the decision making dynamic play out? What are the relative roles of each of the people involved?
  3. Do you have any advice for the situation I laid out above?
  • The answer depends a lot on the type of product and the culture of the company/organization. By type of product I mean: technology level (or know how level) innovation vs implementation of known solutions. Amount of risk taken, and sharing the risk by the organization. And also accountability of each partner (pm, and other departments) on each work package, would be important. – Gürkan Çetin Jul 29 '15 at 18:29
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In Agile Development we are seeing the term "Product Owner Team" (POT) becoming more and more common. The POT is very much like your first scenario, where the Product Owner is the central hub consulting with the POT to create a product backlog. The POT ends up being much like a Scrum Team, only their output is a well ordered Backlog that the Scrum Team can execute on.

A POT will typically have at least the following: PO Architect QA "Architect" Voice of the Customer

I also recommend Operations and Customer Support as their views are invaluable.

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