Product Management 101 [Part 3]: Working Collaboratively with Teams and Stakeholders
"The nice thing about teamwork is that you always have others on your side."
- Margaret Carty
The success of product development is heavily dependent on the effective collaboration of cross-functional teams, and effective communication, like most areas of life, is crucial in ensuring this collaboration is successful. In my experience, communication is an area that can fall by the wayside as you're getting into Product Management, and is still an aspect of my professional life I'm actively trying to improve. It's easy to get swept up in problem definitions and analysis and forget to stop and take notes to share with those around you.
This week we're exploring the role of cross-functional teams in product management, and the benefits of ensuring the lines of communication are flowing freely across the board.
What are Cross-functional Teams?
Cross-functional teams bring together individuals from different departments within an organisation to work towards a common goal. Which teams you might be working with will vary depending on the size of your company, but typically cross-functional teams will be made up of:
- The team responsible for developing the product
- The team responsible for creating prototypes, wireframes and mockups to give the product a visual representation
- The team responsible for creating go-to-market strategies & conducting market research
- The team responsible for ensuring teams are working efficiently and effectively
A Product Manager in a smaller company may end up wearing the hats and taking on the role of some of these teams in the early days.
Cross-functional teams can be an absolute game changer, bringing together diverse perspectives that can uncover new opportunities and identify blind spots which can really drive innovation. Rather than relying on just one person's expertise, the broad range of knowledge and experience that cross-functional teams possess can make decision-making faster and more effective. They also promote communication and collaboration, allowing for rapid experimentation and testing that helps the team to adapt quickly to a changing landscape.
As a product manager, you're the driving force behind a successful cross-functional team, leading the group towards an inspirational and common goal and ensuring that the product meets the needs of customers and the business.
Communicating with Stakeholders
Depending on the size of your company, the types of stakeholders you'll communicate with may vary; from investors, customers, vendors and employees, but the overall path to success is typically the same. Communication is the key, and whether you're talking to your team or your stakeholders, effective communication ensures everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.
To nail effective communication with your stakeholders you need to understand their needs and expectations. This could be achieved through regular check-ins and updates, and ensuring they know you've always got those communication channels open. It's also vital to tailor the communication to each stakeholder by using language and data that they can quickly grasp, a skill I'm still trying to get right in my day-to-day!
You can also get stakeholders invested in the product development process by engaging them in user testing and feedback sessions. This creates a sense of ownership which will always help drive product success.
Cross-functional teams are such an important part of a successful product development team. These teams have the power to unlock innovative ideas and drive success, and as a product manager, your communication skills are crucial to ensure the team is working collaboratively towards a shared vision.
It's essential to tailor your communication style to meet the needs of the team members you're engaging with, and keep everyone invested in the development process by using regular check-ins, feedback sessions and involving stakeholders in user testing. By prioritising effective communication strategies, cross-functional teams can transform your product and help you meet the needs of the business and your customers.
Resources & References
- "How to Build a Cross-Functional Team" - The Workstream, Atlassian
- "Cross-Functional Communication Best Practices to Boost Collaboration" - Capterra
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