Strategies for Building High-Performing Product Teams

Oct 13, 2023

Importance of Product Team Structure

The structure of the product team plays a crucial role in its success. A well-organized and cohesive team can achieve remarkable results, while a poorly structured team may struggle to deliver value. Leaders responsible for assembling product teams must be intentional and strategic in their approach to ensure that the team is equipped to tackle the challenges ahead.

To build a high-performing team, it is essential to consider the following factors:

Designing the Right Product Team

When forming a product team, it is important to consider the specific needs and goals of the organization. Whether the team is extending into new markets, facing competition, or establishing a new product practice, understanding the purpose and pressures the team will face is crucial in determining the right composition.

A product team built for innovation will differ from one built for speed. If the goal is to outperform competitors or expand into new markets, it may be necessary to prioritize market and competitor knowledge or expertise in new technologies. On the other hand, if the focus is on accelerating value delivery for an existing offering, expertise in scaling delivery teams becomes essential.

The Rule of Three

Building a high-performing team requires finding individuals with the right combination of skills and mindsets. It is often said that a great product person possesses three key elements: domain knowledge, product discipline, and a growth mindset.

Domain knowledge refers to a deep understanding of the business context and industry in which the product operates. Product discipline involves experience working in a product model, understanding product management practices, and the ability to develop effective strategies. A growth mindset is characterized by a strong drive to learn, improve, and evolve as a professional.

When hiring for a product team, it is possible to find top performers by focusing on two out of the three elements. Hiring individuals with a growth mindset and either domain knowledge or product discipline can lead to success. It is important to recognize that a growth mindset is non-negotiable and can contribute significantly to the team's overall performance.

Including Product and Technical Team Members

To ensure a balanced team, it is important to consider both product and technical team members. The team should consist of individuals with a range of skills and expertise, including product managers, product owners, engineers, and scrum masters. The goal is to create a well-rounded team that can effectively collaborate and contribute to the product's success.

For example, a product owner with deep domain knowledge can be paired with a product manager who has experience leading product teams and establishing agile practices. Similarly, a team with strong technical and domain knowledge can benefit from a product owner with extensive product management experience.

Key Elements for Building High-Performing Product Teams

1. Organizing the Team around a Product

To maximize team efficiency, it is important to organize the team around a specific product or set of products. This ensures that team members are aligned and focused on delivering value for the product. By clearly defining the product and its goals, the team can work cohesively towards achieving those objectives.

Identifying the products within the organization and understanding their value to users and the business is the first step in organizing effective product teams. This involves solving specific problems or providing benefits to users and customers. It is important to consider how the product generates revenue, promotes or sells other products, or increases productivity and reduces costs for the business.

Once the products have been identified, the next step is to determine the people required to develop and progress the products. This includes roles such as product managers, product owners, engineers, designers, and other relevant stakeholders.

2. Involving the Right People

A high-performing team requires the involvement of the right people with the necessary skills, expertise, and mindset. The team should consist of individuals who can contribute to the product's success and work collaboratively towards achieving its goals.

The person in charge of the product plays a crucial role in leading the team. They should have the necessary expertise and leadership qualities to guide the team and make informed decisions. Additionally, key stakeholders from different business units should be included to ensure that the right decisions are made and effectively implemented.

Representatives from development teams should also be included to provide technical expertise and contribute to the product's development. Additionally, other product people who work closely with the person in charge of the product can provide valuable insights and ensure a shared understanding of the product.

A coach, such as a Scrum Master or agile coach, can also be included to support the team and facilitate collaboration and communication. Their role is to help the team members work together effectively and remove any obstacles that may impede their progress.

3. Establishing Clear Goals

Setting clear and measurable goals is essential for a high-performing product team. The team should have a shared understanding of the product vision, user and business goals, product goals, and sprint goals.

The product vision describes the ultimate purpose of the product and the positive change it aims to bring about. User and business goals outline the value the product should create for its users and the business. Product goals communicate the specific outcomes the product should achieve, such as acquiring more users, increasing engagement, and generating revenue. Sprint goals focus on the outcome of the next sprint and contribute to the overall product goals.

Having clear goals helps align the team and ensures that everyone is working towards a common objective. It enables the team to prioritize tasks and make informed decisions that contribute to the product's success.

4. Empowering the Product Team

Empowerment is a crucial aspect of building a high-performing product team. The team should have the authority and autonomy to make decisions and take ownership of their work. This includes determining the goals and plans for the product, within the boundaries set by the business strategy.

Empowering the team involves creating an environment that fosters collaboration, innovation, and continuous improvement. It requires trust, transparency, and open communication. By empowering the team, they are more likely to take ownership of their work, feel motivated, and deliver high-quality results.

5. Supporting Collaboration

Collaboration is essential for a high-performing product team, especially in a remote or hybrid work environment. The team should have the tools and processes in place to facilitate effective collaboration and communication.

Using modern technologies and platforms can help team members stay connected and share information seamlessly. Shorter, more frequent meetings can prevent fatigue and ensure that team members have time to focus on their work. It is also important to prioritize meaningful and relevant communication, avoiding unnecessary meetings or calls that involve too many people.

Creating a safe and inclusive space for collaboration encourages team members to share their ideas, insights, and feedback. Regular follow-ups and check-ins can help ensure that everyone is on track and aligned with the team's goals.


Building high-performing product teams requires careful consideration of various factors, including team structure, the right people, clear goals, empowerment, and collaboration. By implementing these strategies, organizations can increase their chances of building products that customers love at high speed.

Creating an environment that fosters innovation, collaboration, and continuous improvement is key to the success of a product team. By organizing the team around a specific product, involving the right people, setting clear goals, empowering the team, and supporting collaboration, organizations can create high-performing product teams that deliver exceptional results.

By prioritizing these strategies and investing in the development and growth of the team, organizations can unlock the potential of their product teams and achieve success in today's competitive market.

Remember, building high-performing product teams is an ongoing process that requires constant evaluation, adaptation, and improvement. By continuously striving for excellence and embracing a culture of learning and innovation (like with our Product Strategy and Leadership course), organizations can create a sustainable competitive advantage and deliver products that customers love.

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