Tips for 8x scaling your product team in 1 year
ManoMano went from 3 product people to 25 in one year. That’s a hell of a ride! Beyond size, company culture has experienced a tremendous shift towards a product centric organization. Compared to the US tech scene, these figures may appear small however very few companies in France manage to grow as big and as fast. So getting guidance and mentorship was a challenge! This is why we wanted to share our journey: it has been exciting, tough, filled with successes but also a couple of mistakes we could have avoided.
In a nutshell, here are our 6 key takeaways. We’ll explain them in more depth below. Some might seem obvious when you read them afterwards, what’s interesting though is why we missed them at that time and how we eventually implemented them.
- Recruit your team leads first (vs. individual contributors)
- Make your organization clear and efficient (autonomy, ownership…)
- Engage business into product life (educate, communicate, collocate, align)
- Allow your team to be performant (visibility, product analytics, focus…)
- Create rhythm within product life (product challenges, update, strat)
- Legitimate product department with user research
1/ Recruit your team leads first
When experiencing hypergrowth, emergency comes first from operational problems. It is way faster (and easier) to hire operational resources to solve them before people to manage them. By recruiting juniors first, you will quickly face a shortage of experienced team members you can delegate to. Juniors will lack basic management like coaching, will quickly be disappointed, then inefficient and may leave. This is why you have to accept to spend more time to recruit and convince senior people to join first as senior product manager. It will still be a compelling challenge for them since they will be able to recruit their own team of PMs. At ManoMano, we recruited one Head of QA and 5 great Product Directors, having around 6 years of experience in Product. They could easily have applied as CPO in smaller startups but with perhaps less resources and less exciting challenges.
2/ Make your product organization efficient
Once you get staffed and your immediate business needs solved, you will have to organize your team to offer better visibility to your company. There is no perfect organization model, we just wanted to maximise a few principles corresponding to our current needs. We know we will probably have to change within a year. Here were our principles:
- Ownership: each Feature Team has a clear and coherent functional perimeter summarized by an easy to understand North Star Metric and related to a customer journey step (browsing, payment, customer success…). For instance, the Browsing team focuses on reducing the friction of identifying the right product. Its performance is measured by the Add-to-cart rate. The Checkout team focuses on reducing the friction of, well, checking-out and its performance is measured by the conversion rate post add-to-cart.
- Autonomy: each Feature Team is as autonomous as possible from other functional perimeters (even if you always have dependencies). For instance “Search” team was cut into “Relevance” and “Browsing” (focused on search UX) teams.
- Alignment: feature teams are grouped into tribes sharing a common goal and offering all levers to achieve this goal. For instance, we grouped everything related to “FIND” problem: catalog ingestion, qualification, browsing, etc…
By following customer journey (Find, Buy, Care, Grow), business partners can (quite) easily map their needs to your product organization. It makes sense for everyone
3/ Engage business into product life
ManoMano had a very small product team for a long time (2 PMs and 1 UX for 3 years!). When more PMs joined in to better manage tech demand, the company had to learn with this new function. In order to speed up the transition, we focused on 4 key points
- Educate : We have a strong onboarding process for all newbies with a one hour interactive presentation so that they end up familiar with our product organization and habits : start with customer needs, bring problems instead of solutions, follow basic processes (eg for bugs or quick wins), attend demos…
- Collocate : tech was isolated from businesses. We gathered people by Feature Team no matter if they were business or tech. It created a strong cohesion and team spirit.
- Communicate : we set a Tech Roadshow at the beginning of each quarter to present our roadmap and explain the choices we made. We also send a “tech release” every two weeks
- Align : as many companies, we implemented OKRs (still not perfect but on its way, it will be a full blog post) which created alignment all along the company. Product team members had objective arguments to discard some business demands while they had to deeply contribute to our main OKRs. We ended up each quarter by brainstorm session within each feature team gathering devs, BOs (Business Owners) PM and UX to align on next quarter goal, metric and big rocks
4/ Allow your product team to be performant
I particularly like the performance framework below that Nicolas Hennion (an agile coach) presented to us. Performance is driven by 3 levers: visibility, focus and feedback loops. Here is how we tried to empower our team :
- Visibility: OKRs and roadmap are supposed to bring visibility to the team, at least for the next two quarters. We even created “yearly company goals” to increase visibility
- Focus: our PMs suffered from several micro interruptions preventing them from being focus. We first allowed remote work and we then created no meeting days to help them have long period without interruptions
- Feedback loops: it took more time since we had to set up a well configured analytics stack. It will be again another blog post, but when the team was small our UX analytics tool was enough for most of our needs. With team grow, we had to set a more robust analytical slack and a rigorous governance process. We ended up with GTM as a tag manager, Amplitude for product analytics, and Snow Plow for our Single source of trust and complex analyses. We also built an internal AB test tool (for performance issue and code governance easiness) allowing an always on test and learn approach.
5/ Create rhythm within product life
Once the first 4 points were ok, we still had the feeling something was missing. Especially, we ended up too many times frustrated when a new feature was launched, not having a slot to review (execs) or being challenged once the feature was released (operationals). It turned out that we were missing dedicated product assemblies to expose intention, confront points of view and make the call for a go / no go decision. We thought we had them through our existing team meetings but we were missing some key stakeholders and time to present clear insights and decisions levers to execs. We then created “Product challenge” meetings that happen once a week, focused on one given product issue (eg. delivery fees, browsing experience, catalog quality…). These meetings last one hour and gather main business sponsors besides tech executives, PM and lead dev. The Feature Team exposes its main achievements and next challenges. The discussion focuses on priority reasons (user insights, expected ROI, technical feasibility…). It creates great alignment. Other meeting were created to favor convergence between business and product teams at tribe level.
6/ Legitimate Product with User Research
Product may easily be seen as a support function in the organization. At ManoMano, Sourcing department brings in new merchants creating additional BV (Business Volume), acquisition team make customers come into our website. We tried to “legitimate” Product as a full BU by focusing on user research to collect insights that enabled product managers to better challenge their Business counterparts. That turned Product guys into valuable business partners for the rest of the organization. User Research plays a key role by setting the appropriate tools (session replay, forms…) so that Product Managers and UX are able to perform user research easily within their own feature team. For more details, see how Chloe kick-started it within a month, creating 2 recurring events (Customer shoes during the onboarding and PopCorn session that present user sessions highlights). It really turned MM into a customer centric organization