Who is responsible for insights in a product team?
There are many pieces of information needed to navigate a product in its environment of users and competitors towards a goal. You could say that a product team is just like a group of pirates on a ship navigating towards their next treasure. They need to know about the nautical terrain, weather forecast and enemy ships to navigate successfully to their goal. Like in a product team, the team of pirates has their different roles and responsibilities. They each have their own separate piece of the truth about how the ship can reach the treasure. If the pirates don’t share their knowledge with each other they will never see the whole picture—and they risk stranding in the wrong bay.
On many pirate ships the responsibility of navigation falls on the cartographer (the designer)—the person who draws the map becomes responsible for navigational research as a whole. But in order to chart a good map, you regularly need to get out of the navigation room to get an overview of the area. More importantly, the surrounding area is just a part of the picture. The skipper (the tech lead) might know crucial information about the ship’s condition and the war pirate (marketing) might know best which routes that are safest to take. These insights are scattered on the ship and rarely shared between the pirates. When the ship is out at sea, the waves are rolling and the captain (the product manager) is drunk on rum, the team needs a way to regularly share and follow up necessary research to successfully navigate towards the treasure.
A team ritual
Over the last year we (a group of designers, strategists and developers at Bekk) have experimented and researched how to stitch treasure maps together for product teams that are out at sea. Inspired by other successful rituals like team retros we tried to make a ritual that would make product insights a strong part of the team culture.
Why a ritual?
- We wanted to build an insight-based culture. To build a culture we need to change behavior and gather around a common belief. A successful way of doing this through history has been rituals.
- We wanted to create an arena where different contributors could meet and share their insight with each other.
We tested different versions of rituals in our teams and workplaces (a variety of insurance, pension, over-the-top media services, social search service and transportation) over the past year and discovered that there are six important traits of a successful insight ritual:
- Easy to implement – Better than something complex that you'll never use.
- Actionable – No point of doing anything if it doesn’t bring results.
- Boundaries – What is up for discussion now and what we’ll deal with later.
- Goal – Keep the ritual aligned with the goal for the team or the product.
- Progress – Avoid congestion by working with bite sized tasks.
- Adjustable – No teams are equal so the ritual needs to have room for adaptation.
After several iterations, we arrived at the insight retro.
The Insight Retro
What: The insight retro is a small repeated meeting/ritual for teams.
Why: The purpose of the meeting is to create and motivate insight based culture.
When: Regular retros—from a few times a week to a few times a year. A regular retro should take 20-30 minutes.
Who: Everyone in the team who has a piece of the insight puzzle. If you’re in a big team, vary the combination of people from one retro to the next to avoid being too many.
How: Go through the following steps:
Active experiments and initiatives. What are we currently investigating? Report back on initiatives from the last retro.
Findings and knowledge collected since last insight retro. What have we discovered recently?
Suggestions and ideas. What’s in sight? What should we investigate and which experiments should we do? Tip: set a limit of 1-2 ideas per person.
Prioritize the most important experiments and initiatives. Dot voting or counting hands – keep this simple and goal-oriented.
Each problem or suggestion should have an owner. This person is responsible for reporting back the results in the next retro. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the owner is responsible for doing the actual research.
Tip 1: To make it easier to prioritize you can try to make tasks (experiments and initiatives) in the same size. Try to make the task big enough to be of true value and small enough not to depend on everything else.
Tip 2: If you are trying this for the first time, we recommend trying with 5 people or less. Then make up your mind who should be involved.
Try it on your own ship!
If you feel your team has an incomplete treasure map that needs to be stitched together, you should try an insight retro! We can’t imagine an easier way to engage the whole team around collecting and managing product insights. Although you and your fellow pirates might have just returned from this year’s biggest sea battle (julebord), January seems like a good time to try out a few insight retros before your team set sail towards your next treasure.
If you try this with your team and develop it further, we would love to get some feedback 👆🔝