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Culture, clear goals are essential for a strong product culture

By Jodie Hopperton

INMA

Los Angeles, California, United States

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In the last couple of weeks, I have spoken to two leaders about how product can be infused into an organisation. This week, I spoke to an HR executive who is looking at how to reorganise, ensuring product thinking is engrained in the organisation.

I wish there was a silver bullet for product, but there simply isn’t. The main reason for this is culture. Even with the best structure in the world, it only works if there is a culture of transparency, shared goals, and goodwill. 

Four common organisational structures.
Four common organisational structures.

Here are a few things to consider when looking at organisation structures and how teams work together:

Theres been a lot of change already

Only 20 years ago, publishers had one product. Now they have many — most of which have been developed within those 20 years. The organisation was naturally siloed, and there was a wall with editorial (mostly referred to as church and state where I come from). At the first media company I worked for, you couldn’t get on to the editorial floor if you worked in advertising. The badges simply didn't work. Why should you care? Because a LOT has changed in 20 years, and the first step is recognition that the organisations being built today are very different to how they were.

Clear goals and missions are essential

Everyone in the organisation — yes everyone — should have a clear understanding of what they are trying to achieve as individuals and teams and how those wrap up into the company objectives. These should be simple and easy for anyone to articulate. Most companies I speak to use OKRs (summary of the model here), which are extremely effective. Just one thing to look out for: In large organisations, OKRs are tiered down. It’s helpful to have some kind of single oversight of OKRs at all levels to make sure they truly work together and get don’t down, or worse, start conflicting.

Find a single source of truth for metrics

Once you know what the goals are, ensure they are measurable and that you are all using the same systems to measure them. I guarantee people will be able to find statistics to back up pretty much anything given the chance. So find a system that works for you, and make sure everyone has access to it. It’s helpful for people to have access to data if they know what they are looking at, so a clear presentation and explanation will be needed for this to work well. 

If you want to dig deeper into different types of structure, take a look at the INMA report How Product Is Leading Media’s New Growth Path (free to INMA members). Here you will find a few examples that may work best for you based on organisation size, number of brands, and revenue models. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you would like to discuss any of this. 

If you’d like to subscribe to my bi-weekly newsletter, INMA members can do so here.

About Jodie Hopperton

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