Vidya Dinamani is a partner at Product Rebels - a product training and coaching company that teaches teams hands-on ways to become more customer-centric in order to build products that customers love. Vidya has over 20 years of experience in product - including multiple executive roles at leading companies such as Intuit. She has coached over 150 companies from startups to Fortune50, and is co-author of "Groundwork: Get Better at Making Better Products".
Product Management is a skill & discipline primarily learned on the job. Who you work for can shape so much of the way that you think and grow as a product manager. However, for most product leaders, it can feel very lonely. There's a lot of pressure to perform, a team to lead, and a product vision, strategy and roadmap that you own. Having a product leadership coach makes an incredible difference in my experience. When the leader has a trusted peer, someone who's been in their role who understands the complexity of the work and the people, the burden is shared. The leader has a sounding board, a confidant and an expert who can provide examples and advice. Our product community needs more networks, more connections and support for product leaders. I'd like to see every product leader have a coach in the next 5-10 years, and that this becomes seen as a best practice, not an exception.
We have used a set of proprietary frameworks - we've built roles & responsibilities; PDLC, DACI best practices that can be leveraged to see gaps in organizations and teams. We use our "Groundwork" program to instill customer-centric best practices into teams, and work 1-1 with the product leader to identify gaps in team performance, as well as process gaps. We leverage a number of design thinking techniques such as stakeholder mapping to identify how to navigate an organization; importance/difficulty matrix for strategic planning; various prioritization frameworks for both the business and product. We also use well known tools such as Clifton Strengths to highlight key leadership capabilities.
There are lots of longer-term that help an individual make a lasting impact such as communicating regularly with stakeholders, being constantly up-to-date on market and industry information, understand the business strategy, financials and so on. However, to be immediately impactful, I’d offer three areas of focus. First, be seen as the hands-down expert on your customer. Know your customer so well you can describe them at a moment’s notice – not just high-level demographics or segment information, but bring to life their pain-points, their attitudes and beliefs. Be ready to tell stories that inspire the teams and people you work with. Share your passion for the customer in every meeting. The second way to increase impact is to change your language to be hypothesis-driven. Rather than share opinions– talk about what is most important to learn next, and put a stake in the ground for what you believe and why. Always have a point of view based on data, research and your best thinking. Write down your hypotheses and share them with the team, so they understand what’s important to learn and why, and they see your discipline in action. The third way to increase your impact is to have a learning mindset, and have that show up in the way that you work day-day. How do you build learning into every sprint? Can you bring your team into customer research? How do you prototype and test at a lower fidelity? Can you establish customer advisory groups so that you can always learn from a customer without significant preparation. What would it take to learn every day from a customer? How do you excite and inspire your team to learn with you? A mindset of continually learning can be contagious and lead to real change within the teams you work with.
I've partnered with product leaders to coach hundreds of product teams across multiple industries. We established our coaching business over six years ago, and have worked with hundreds of teams in smaller growth companies to Fortune50. In our last engagement with a multi-billion financial software company, we taught over 400 product managers the mindsets and practices of world class product management. We developed a blended learning program to instill customer-driven best practices into product teams. With my business partner, I authored a book "Groundwork: Get Better at Making Better Products" which launched at the end of 2020 on Amazon. I've spoken at multiple product and technical conferences around the world, and been featured on multiple podcasts.