Content Review - Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products

Marty Cagan is one of the most renowed product person in the world. He was Product Leader for eBay, HP and Netscape, he wrote Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products with Chris Jones, to raise product leaders’ awareness on team empowerment.

Both writers are part of the Silicon Valley Product Group that Marty founded. It consists of a strong community of senior leaders who worked for the top tech companies in the world. They share the best product-related practices in the form of articles and public workshops based on the three books they published.

Empowered is one of them.

Without further ado, let's dive into this product culture masterpiece:

“why don’t more companies actually empower their teams?”.

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Marty assures that trust is the matter here. If the CEO doesn’t care about the product manager, him & stakeholders will only ask for new feaures, & to ship them. The quicker the better

That’s what differentiates feature teams from empowered teams. The first one is bound to ship new features, whereas the second wants to to solve real customer pain. What matters to the latter is how they trust each other, starting with heads of the executive.

Most product teams work in a company that doesn’t trust them, and rather prevents them from unleashing their leading potential.

To illustrate, check out this quote Marty added from former Apple VP of marketing and board director Bill Campbell

Leadership is about recognizing there’s a greatness in everyone, and your job is to create an environment where that greatness can emerge.”

In order to create a team able to deliver a product that people want, the product manager works as a leader. The book’s main idea is to prove that it is possible to manage ordinary people, by leveraging your leading skills, & inspire your teams to think beyond your work & align with the product vision.

Marty thinks that there’s a problem in today’s leadership in most companies, where they tend to merge it with management.

For him, leadership is inspiring the team, whereas management is guiding it through the set goal.

Even if most leaders are also managers, there needs to be a distinction between the two. It marks the difference between a good and a bad strategy.

To be able to fulfill those two jobs effectively, you lead your teams by providing context, establishing your product vision, strategy, and priorities. Managing the teams consists of setting the right objectives, and populate your team with the right people. The book advocates the following: you don’t hire highly skilled individuals to tell them what they have to do. Their potential has to be higher than yours.

Steve Jobs said this:

It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do”.

This sentence sums Marty Cagan's vision: hire a team that will have the ideas you would never have thought of without them. If given the right context by their leader, their ideas will thrive!

A very interesting read I recommend to every aspiring leaderj! Empowered is the guide they must get.

Trust is Empowerment. Let your teams solve real problems, and create outstanding products. Compiling decades of experience from the best leaders of the top-tier tech companies in the world, needless to say it is an excellent reading on how to be the best leader!