A product team’s job is to think about the big picture: what your customers need, and what innovations can push your organization into the next chapter of growth. But seeing that bigger picture—and keeping it in focus as you work toward it—is far easier said than done.
Earlier this year, we surveyed over 700 product professionals to understand how they stay focused: from individual contributors, up to C-level leadership.
In this 5-minute read, we’re summarizing the three biggest takeaways from that research. Read on for the summary, or dig into the full product insights report to get the details—the choice is yours.
Takeaway #1: There’s a gap between vision and execution
Doing the work of product development is one thing—but understanding why you’re doing it is another. Unfortunately, more than half of product team members aren’t clear on the mission behind the work. The research found that 58% of product team members don’t have a strong understanding of the product vision.
And that disconnect grows as the company does. The research shows that, the more full-time employees a company has, the less likely product team members are to say they “have a strong understanding” of the product vision.
From what the research gathers, that boils down to a few factors:
- Information has trouble moving across the product org: Less than a quarter of product team members say it’s “very easy” to access the information they need to do their jobs. Those gaps in context could impact their ability to tie work to broader goals in strategy.
- Visibility into high-level objectives and goals is inconsistent: About half of product team members have “high visibility” into goals and objectives for their team. That, in turn, can impact their ability to see the high-level strategy behind the work they’re doing.
Takeaway #2: Granting autonomy isn’t just good management—it’s good for business
By now, many of us have heard of the MAP acronym, which stands for: mastery, autonomy, and purpose. Coined by Daniel Pink around 2009, it’s a framework for creating intrinsic motivation across a team by cultivating—you guessed it—mastery, autonomy, and purpose within their work.
But as it turns out, autonomy isn’t just a useful tool for motivating teams: for product teams, granting autonomy also has a positive impact on the business.
Research from the product insights report shows that within product teams, more autonomy leads to higher engagement. Teams with “very high” autonomy are nearly 5x as likely to say they’re engaged at work when compared to teams with “very low to slightly low” autonomy. It’s an impressive difference—but what’s even more impressive is the impact that increased engagement has on the business. Engaged teams are:
- 5x more likely to understand the long-term vision of the product they work on
- 8x more likely to ship products on time (and 17x more likely to ship on time for individual contributors)
Takeaway #3: Process != progress in the scheme of the product dev lifecycle
The product development lifecycle consists of six core stages, from collecting feedback to measuring and improving impact.
But when we asked product teams to weigh in on how they approach those six stages, we got some interesting results: 81% of product teams say they have process in place to tackle 5 (or more) stages of the product development lifecycle.
In this case, “process” is defined by having a documented process designed to help navigate that stage of the lifecycle in a repeatable way. So it’s safe to say that most product teams have process in place to handle the majority of the product development lifecycle.
What makes that finding interesting wasn’t just that process is so widespread: it’s the efficacy of it. Even though most teams have process in place for 5+ stages, 90% of teams still said they find at least one stage of the product development lifecycle “highly challenging.”
So if your team is struggling: you’re far from alone. And the good news is, it’s clear that most teams are investing in product operations throughout the product development lifecycle—they might just have to refine their processes to make sure they’re reaching the intended impact.
This is just a peek at the findings from Airtable’s inaugural product insights report. To see the rest of the findings, feel free to download the full report. Or you can join our LinkedIn Live broadcast on June 30th covering the top takeaways with Randy Silver, co-host of The Product Experience, and our very own Scott White.