Product Thinking
Episode 113: Answering Questions About SAFe 6.0, Improving Alignment Between Project Managers, and Implementing OKRs Successfully
April 5, 2023
In this Dear Melissa segment, Melissa Perri answers subscribers’ questions about changes and new features in SAFe 6.0, how to improve alignment and transparency between project managers on the same team while meeting the needs of the different stakeholders, and what it takes to implement business OKRs successfully. Q&A: Q: I just finished a significant dev project in the FinTech industry. There were about thirty-five product managers in the company. I took a role as a senior product manager, and they made everyone go through SAFe. Their commitment to SAFe was about a ten, and their commitment to outcomes was about a two. So what is the deal with SAFe? Have you seen this improved output in any of your encounters with it? It didn't seem agile or lean to me. A: I have not seen anybody actually succeed in implementing SAFe in a way where we focus more on the outcomes instead of doing the actual process. People turn to SAFe because they want the instruction manual. But the problem with that is they stop thinking for themselves about what is right and wrong and whether we are actually delivering outcomes. And that's my biggest issue with it. But this is a great time to look at SAFe 6.0 and see what's happening here. Q: I'm a product operations manager at a medium size company operating in the field of digital health. The company has been growing fast in the last couple of years, and the number of PMs and projects has also grown, making it more difficult to collaborate and stay. ...To improve alignment between the main people involved in those areas, we decided to form a PM designer's team. The team currently includes five product managers, including senior and junior PMs, and is led by a Head of Product, as well as three designers and senior designers led by a Head of Design. However, we've been struggling to identify how to set up things to become a well-functioning team. ...On the other hand, the team has an urgent need to align on the product roadmap, but we haven't found an effective way of doing that yet. Do you have any recommendations on how to set up this kind of team while meeting the needs of the different stakeholders? What kind of virtuals and processes could help us? A: The main idea behind product operations is one of enablement, not micromanagement. When you think of product operations, cadences and governance are a big part of your role, and it's about getting the right people in the right room so that you can review the things that you need. Now, if you have this new product management and design team, the leaders will want some transparency in the roadmap. But they don't need to know everybody's tiny task. Here’s what I think could help your team. Q: Our tech department is small and in the growth stage, and we have recently implemented business OKRs with key results, but we're not sure what to do next. We don't have the team structure set up correctly. We don't empower the teams. We don't seem to have a product or business strategy for digital products. How would you approach a situation with our product lead and stakeholders? A: If there's no guiding strategy, how did you come up with the OKRs? To me, they're probably going to be a little messy, and they're not gonna be focused on the outcomes we are trying to achieve. People put the OKRs all on the team level and don't roll them up. You should have three levels of OKRs that roll up to the business goals. So that might be a good place to start with your business leads and stakeholders. 658076
In this Dear Melissa segment, Melissa Perri answers subscribers’ questions about changes and new features in SAFe 6.0, how to improve alignment and transparency between project managers on the same team while meeting the needs of the different stakeholders, and what it takes to implement business OKRs successfully. Q&A: Q: I just finished a significant dev project in the FinTech industry. There were about thirty-five product managers in the company. I took a role as a senior product manager, and they made everyone go through SAFe. Their commitment to SAFe was about a ten, and their commitment to outcomes was about a two. So what is the deal with SAFe? Have you seen this improved output in any of your encounters with it? It didn't seem agile or lean to me. A: I have not seen anybody actually succeed in implementing SAFe in a way where we focus more on the outcomes instead of doing the actual process. People turn to SAFe because they want the instruction manual. But the problem with that is they stop thinking for themselves about what is right and wrong and whether we are actually delivering outcomes. And that's my biggest issue with it. But this is a great time to look at SAFe 6.0 and see what's happening here. Q: I'm a product operations manager at a medium size company operating in the field of digital health. The company has been growing fast in the last couple of years, and the number of PMs and projects has also grown, making it more difficult to collaborate and stay. ...To improve alignment between the main people involved in those areas, we decided to form a PM designer's team. The team currently includes five product managers, including senior and junior PMs, and is led by a Head of Product, as well as three designers and senior designers led by a Head of Design. However, we've been struggling to identify how to set up things to become a well-functioning team. ...On the other hand, the team has an urgent need to align on the product roadmap, but we haven't found an effective way of doing that yet. Do you have any recommendations on how to set up this kind of team while meeting the needs of the different stakeholders? What kind of virtuals and processes could help us? A: The main idea behind product operations is one of enablement, not micromanagement. When you think of product operations, cadences and governance are a big part of your role, and it's about getting the right people in the right room so that you can review the things that you need. Now, if you have this new product management and design team, the leaders will want some transparency in the roadmap. But they don't need to know everybody's tiny task. Here’s what I think could help your team. Q: Our tech department is small and in the growth stage, and we have recently implemented business OKRs with key results, but we're not sure what to do next. We don't have the team structure set up correctly. We don't empower the teams. We don't seem to have a product or business strategy for digital products. How would you approach a situation with our product lead and stakeholders? A: If there's no guiding strategy, how did you come up with the OKRs? To me, they're probably going to be a little messy, and they're not gonna be focused on the outcomes we are trying to achieve. People put the OKRs all on the team level and don't roll them up. You should have three levels of OKRs that roll up to the business goals. So that might be a good place to start with your business leads and stakeholders. 658076

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