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Transforming through product: How to successfully scale a product team
by Charlie Wileman18 January 2023 5 Min Read

Psychological safety has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years. Especially for HR leads striving to create workplaces that prioritise people's well-being. But did you know that psychological safety should also be top of your product team’s agenda?  Because when people feel safe, heard, and represented, brilliance and innovation can flourish. 

In our latest webinar, How product drives change, we got the inside scoop on how product leaders have built psychological safety to sustainably scale their product teams, creating not only supportive workplaces but also a thriving digital business along the way.

Dare to fail

It probably sounds counterintuitive to suggest that the best way to scale sustainably is to make failure part of the roadmap. But anyone who really gets how digital products work will understand that there’s always an element of trial and error on the success trajectory. And failure should not be reserved for entry-level positions.

As Infogrid’s VP of Product, Becky Yelland, puts it, “It’s about leading from the front. It’s about saying, ‘look at me failing, look at me talking nonsense, look at me having a hard conversation in a less-than-ideal way. Let’s learn together from it.”

Look at me failing, look at me talking nonsense, look at me having a hard conversation in a less-than-ideal way. Let’s learn together from it.

Becky Yelland, VP of Product at Infogrid

Even beyond the team, if you break down an MVP strategy, it’s also about failing small and fast. Chief Product Officer at Chambers and Partners, Simon Jaffery-Reed, says it better.

“MVP is not, ‘Here’s what we’re building as a North Star. How do you get it back to a point where we can build it in three months?’ MVP is knowing you’re going to get it wrong. It’s about figuring out how to get the learnings as quickly as possible to reduce the costs of getting it wrong and the overall time it takes to get it right”.

“And actually, what you end up delivering is a hell of a lot better because you got it wrong initially,” Becky adds. “Because without that learning, you would never have gotten to that endpoint.”

Diversify your team

Scaling a product team is not just about getting more bums on seats. It’s about getting the right bums on seats. Bums that bring in diversity of thought. And we’re not just talking about cultural backgrounds, gender identity, age etc. (though definitely factor these in!).

We’re talking about diverse professional and personal experiences, too. Because those experiences can form the basis for new ways of thinking and working to help drive product success whilst also creating a culture where everyone feels safe, seen and inspired.

“Make sure you’ve got the right culture and psychological safety within the team, so you can do things openly and experiment,” says Simon. “These are the things I care about when thinking about how to scale product teams.”

Make sure you’ve got the right culture and psychological safety within the team, so you can do things openly and experiment.

Simon Jaffery-Reed, Chief Product Officer at Chambers and Partners

This culture and safety must be fostered at all levels. “I want to feel challenged by somebody I'm hiring”, says Becky. “It's a partnership, not a directorship, and I want someone to come in and be asking questions and challenging me just as much as I challenge them.” 

“If you are hiring people with diversity of thought into a discipline that is ultimately quite creative and you are not creating a space of psychological safety, then complications around how that team grows will arise – how they interact with each other, how they thrive with each other's success, how they drive each other, how they look to solve problems together as a holistic team. All of those things are more tricky if you haven't created that space of psychological safety.”

Foster creativity

There’s no such thing as a bad idea. But the fear of getting it wrong can prevent people from bringing their best, most creative selves to the table. "If you have a fear of getting it wrong, you’re not going to enable people to be creative, and you’re not going to get the best out of people,” says Simon.

If you have a fear of getting it wrong, you’re not going to enable people to be creative.

Simon Jaffery-Reed, Chief Product Officer at Chambers and Partners

Fostering a culture of psychological safety is about creating a space where all ideas are welcomed. Because if you give everyone the opportunity to work through their ideas, you’re probably going to get to the best ones faster. 

Simon explains, “Brain trust is where you put an idea out there, and basically, it's a safe space for other people to challenge it. It's not about challenging the individual. It's about improving the idea. Everyone's got the right intentions, everyone is trying their best. Essentially, it's about how you make those things better.”

Play back the full conversation with Srin, Simon and Becky on our event page to learn how to kickstart your transformation into a product-led business.

Inclusive Design expert and passionate about delivering positive transformational change across products, services and teams.
Charlie
 
Wileman
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