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Creating a Product Org with Agile Methodologies

Alignment
Changing A Company
Goal Setting
Meetings
Agile / Scrum

13 December, 2021

Joe Leung
Joe Leung

Product Leader || Founder of Bootstrapping Tools | currently at Thrasio

Joe Leung, Founder and Product Leader at Bootstrapping Tools, shares his experience navigating the career path to create a product org, minimize meetings, and improve his team's motivation.

My Progression Through the Career Ladder and Product Org

Around ten years ago, I began my involvement in tech companies. The company I joined had been in the real estate industry for a decade and a half. This was directly before the aggregation theory came into play and businesses such as Zillow and Autotrader began collecting data. These technologies were powerful tools, but companies lacked collaboration with the teams implementing this software. Leadership and C-level management made large decisions while teams were expected to execute.

When I transitioned into a more modern tech startup, I found that collaboration was more apparent. The creative, experimental environment sparked innovation from the bottom up. From there, I transitioned to a larger corporation and then another small startup, where I began building a product organization. One of the major goals I had at this company was to ensure that the business side of things didn't affect the culture within the tech org.

Creating a Product Org Using an Agile Methodology

Collaboration and Alignment:

The first thing that I did was involve myself with the engineering department to ensure that our ideas were on a similar page. We detailed what we wanted the team to stand for: innovation, problem-solving, beginner's mindset, and quick thinking. We documented these core values and tried to embody them as much as possible. The sense of comradery and working towards the same goals helped align our organization and understand what to look for in recruits. It was vital for my team to take ownership of these values and not just follow their initiatives.

Team Meetings:

After setting the core values, we looked to minimize the number of team meetings. In my experience, many companies spend the majority of their time in meetings. We took the example from FAANG, who strived to reduce the number of meetings for their teams. We reduced the number of synchronous stand-ups by replacing them with asynchronous stand-ups and demo/review days. Working with each individual leader, I customized the number of meetings for each; instead of simply implementing the agile development framework, I used it as a set of guidelines for my process.

Using an Agile Approach:

Using agile as a set of guidelines allowed me to pivot with the features my company was building. I used this agile methodology in everything I was doing, from team building to software development. Whenever I added an individual to the team, the dynamic would change, and sometimes the technologies. Two of my teams used scrum while two other teams used kanban. As long as the outcome was positive, the methods could be sculpted to the specific team.

Increasing Motivation of a Team

  • I had heard about the importance of alignment and goal setting previously in another organization. I remember the CEO telling me that happiness was the key to engagement and motivation. If team members were open about voicing their opinions, there would be endless opportunities for discussion.
  • There is a piece of advice that says you have to remove yourself to be a successful leader. I disagree with this statement because they will do the work as long as a team respects you. Rallying a team based on values, missions, and goals is more successful than pushing a team with force.  

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