Motivating Your Team to Deliver Results

James (Andy) Vaughn

Principal Technical Product Manager at AppFolio



I worked for many years at a company where the concept of a dedicated product team and leader did not exist until very late in my tenure. Early on in the company's history, the founder CEO relied on their charisma to be the organization's focal point and rallying cry. As the company grew, the head of sales stepped up to this position to accumulate support and excitement with sales figures. When neither of these options seemed to inspire everyone equally, the CTO stepped up and tried to get our company to band together over technology, something not everyone was passionate about.

Actions taken

Our company brought in an experienced product leader who created something they called a product vision roadmap. This was a key asset for our company that lacked a high-level product mission statement or a ground-level backlog. The product vision roadmap detailed whom we served, what problem we were solving, why it was a problem, and what our general approach to solving the problem was. It was not about any sales goals or specific features we needed to build; it explained our organization's basics of who and why and, critically, our unique, special, and differentiated direction. The product vision roadmap provided aspirational alignment that kept everyone in the company, and customers, on the same page.

We had grown large enough that our founder CEO had too many daily responsibilities to be the organization's focal point, and we needed something else to give us tactical direction. So we relied on the product vision roadmap to make informed decisions. We used the roadmap to excite existing customers and make sure they continued to agree with our direction. As a B2B2C company, our customers were our business partners as our company solved problems for their consumers (our customers' customers). It was essential for us to inform them of our current perspective on their industry’s trajectory and what unique product direction met the challenges of both today and tomorrow.

The product vision roadmap was a living document that moved with our customers' wants and needs and with the market. Minor adjustments could be made every quarter, and we continuously evangelized it to our customers as it changed. In our specific case, this document was beneficial for the nature of the problems we solved. Since we treated our customers as partners, their consumers would have more respect for them when we solved their pains. Our product vision roadmap helped show empathy for these consumers even though they were two levels removed from our company.

Lessons learned

  • You need a point of alignment to agree on who your customers are and what service or product you are providing. It takes an entire company to launch a product, and it’s significantly easier when employees are excited and anticipating the new launch.
  • Sales goals or cool tech will not motivate a whole team. Some employees may be encouraged by monetary value, but in my experience, more often, people are motivated to create the change they deem essential. Sales goals and tech do not always excite the majority, hence why a product vision roadmap creates alignment around a shared vision of an outcome that everyone sees as beneficial.

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James (Andy) Vaughn

Principal Technical Product Manager at AppFolio

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