Scrum Agile Project Management

Managing Product Teams by Outcomes

Shifting responsibilities from a “command and control” organization towards self-organized teams is not easy. In her article “Managing Product Teams for Success”, Teresa Torres discusses the challenges that you face when you try manage product teams by outcomes.

Managing teams by outcomes (find a solution to achieve some goals) is different than managing them by output (build the product as specified). Teresa Torres starts her article by explaining the issue in simple terms:

Most leaders want their teams to have the autonomy to go after an outcome, but they struggle with trusting that their teams will do the right things.

Most teams want that autonomy, but they struggle with communicating their progress toward an uncertain outcome.

Managing Product Teams by Outcomes

Then she tries to answer the following questions:
* How do we empower product teams?
* How do managers monitor and provide feedback without dictating and controlling?
* How do teams communicate progress without fear of being told what to do?

The blog post contains an interesting model that shows how managers can share more power to the team and how the team can communicate without the fear of having each of their decisions subject to harsh discussions. This model is based on different elements:
* Importance of outcome negotiation and communication
* Removing uncertainty of product discovery with activities that directly influence decisions
* Prioritizing delivery based on the discovery roadmap, not the delivery backlog
* Outcome should be the only measure of success

The conclusion of Teresa Torres is that “A key to making this work is that teams must feel comfortable sharing their progress toward their goal without fear of losing autonomy. Managers must learn to give constructive feedback rather than telling their teams what to do. For a team to be truly autonomous, they must work with their managers to set a desired outcome, be given the resources they need to go after that outcome, and, most importantly, be given the freedom to pursue that outcome however they see fit. Managers can and should give feedback. But their primary mechanisms for managing the team are negotiating the outcome and evaluating the final outcome.”

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