Beyond KPIs and Cultivating Success

Building an Empowered Product Team from Scratch

Last week I caught up with a friend who’d just received a substantial bonus from her employer – she’s VP Product at one of the leading fintech disruptors. I imagined she’d called to tell me the good news, celebrate the wins of her team and so on. Instead she was wondering how to leave, lamented the fact that many senior people in her tribes had resigned and was feeling burnt out and depressed.

Whilst the company had gone from strength to strength (due in part to her great leadership and direction) the culture has suffered immeasurably. The product teams had been able to execute against tough milestones and KPIs but at what cost?

A product team needs to meet the business goals and objectives – a non-negotiable. But there’s more to it than that – although it also depends on what type of product leader you may be.

Starting from Scratch

Building a successful product team from the ground up is no easy task. It requires careful planning, strategic decision-making, and a commitment to fostering a culture of empowerment. While key performance indicators (KPIs) are crucial for measuring product success, they only touch the surface. The best product teams are those that cultivate a great culture, which ultimately leads to personal and professional growth for team members. So how do you set any kind of metrics beyond KPIs??

Defining Success Metrics beyond KPIs

While KPIs provide quantifiable metrics to measure product success, they often fail to capture the full picture. Real success metrics go beyond numbers and include:

a. User Satisfaction and Feedback: One of the most critical indicators of success is the satisfaction of your users. Regularly collecting and analysing user feedback through surveys, user testing, and support channels can provide valuable insights into product improvements.

b. Time-to-Market: Efficiently delivering features and updates to market is a crucial success metric. Measuring the time it takes to ideate, develop, test, and release new features can indicate the team’s agility and ability to meet market demands. This can be a big challenge for product leaders as they wish to squeeze the best out of their teams but get enough data back to keep driving forward. Start product ‘scrappy’ but refine as you move close towards product/market fit.

c. Team Collaboration and Communication: A successful product team thrives on effective collaboration and communication. Metrics like cross-functional collaboration, participation in team meetings, and knowledge sharing can be used to evaluate the team’s effectiveness in working together. A great ‘ice breaker’ is to invite different team members as guests in your design reviews or ideation workshops.

d. Employee Satisfaction and Retention: High employee satisfaction and low turnover rates are indicative of a thriving product team. Regular employee surveys, one-on-one meetings, and performance reviews can provide insights into team morale and engagement.

Cultivating a Great Culture for Long-Term Success

Building an empowered product team goes beyond technical skills and performance metrics. Fostering a great culture is vital for long-term success and the professional growth of team members. Here are some strategies to cultivate a positive team culture:

a. Encouraging Collaboration and Autonomy: Empower team members by giving them ownership of their work and encouraging collaboration across disciplines. Foster an environment where everyone’s ideas and contributions are valued.

b. Transparent Communication: Establish open and transparent communication channels within the team. Regularly share product vision, goals, and progress updates to ensure alignment and enable individuals to make informed decisions.

c. Continuous Learning and Development: Support the growth and development of team members by providing opportunities for learning, such as training programs, conferences, and mentorship initiatives. Encourage a culture of continuous improvement and include yourself in some of those discussions.

d. Recognising and Celebrating Achievements: Acknowledge and celebrate both individual and team achievements. Recognise team members’ contributions and provide constructive feedback to foster a positive and motivating work environment.

e. Promoting Work-Life Balance: Encourage a healthy work-life balance by setting realistic expectations, providing flexible working hours, and supporting personal well-being initiatives. This helps prevent burnout and promotes long-term productivity. In today’s post COVID world, remote work has sometimes led to unrealistic time boxing – try to be understanding and kind. With some of your more junior team members run a ‘Better Tomorrow‘ workshop to help diffuse some of their work related anxiety.

Career Growth and Beyond:

The best product teams not only deliver successful products but also enable the growth and development of their team members. By creating an environment that values personal and professional growth, product teams can set their members up for future success. Some practices to facilitate career growth include:

Individual Goal Setting: Work with team members to define and set personal development goals aligned with their career aspirations. Regularly revisit these goals and provide support to help individuals achieve them.

Mentorship and Coaching: Encourage experienced team members to mentor and coach junior members. This fosters knowledge transfer, accelerates learning, and strengthens team bonds.

External Networking and Community Engagement: Encourage team members to participate in industry events, conferences, and engage with relevant communities. This helps broaden their perspectives, build valuable connections, and bring fresh insights back to the team.

Stretch Assignments and Opportunities: Provide challenging projects or assignments that stretch team members’ skills and capabilities. This not only enhances their expertise but also fosters a sense of accomplishment and personal growth. Grab some of your product design team for example and throw them into a hackathon with some of the devs – often you’ll see surprising results!


A Retrospective: As a Product Leader – What Matters is up to You

👉 Build the team that serves your values

Someone once told me that their team would never remember reaching those H2 targets but they would remember the 1-2-1s where they got to know their manager a little. Or the time where the squad worked all weekend, had pizza and stayed up all night chatting and sharing life stories.

You’ll have to straddle the commercial needs of the business against those of your people and how you do that and what you prioritise will be up to you. For me personally I always want product managers I work with to feel that they had fun, learnt loads and made some sort of difference, however small. I also encourage them to push their learning and maximise their opportunities – which may mean they have a limited tenure in your team. They won’t forget how they moved on to the next big role though and there is something wonderful about empowering a next generation to do even better.