World Product Day: Organization as a Product by Neville Reeves

A sign that says Welcome to ProductTank

At ProductTank Montevideo (Mvd) we celebrated World Product Day earlier this month with a presentation from an awesome product leader, VP of Product Strategy at Rootstrap, Neville Reeves.

Neville took us through how he used new mental structures to change the status quo of the company and looked at how you can rethink an organization as a product itself.

Neville started with a “nine dots” exercise (you must link all nine dots using four straight lines or fewer, without lifting the pen). He explained the rules and challenged us to complete the exercise. Presenting the solution, he said: “This is organization as a product.” He explained that sometimes it is necessary to break your current mental models to figure out solutions, and to unlearn what you know.

Building a product is a continuous improvement process. Start by establishing a clear vision, map out a strategy, and execute a series of tactical moves.

A Game of Chess

Planning and making organizational changes can be likened to a game of chess, Neville said.

He explained that he mapped his principles (set a proper vision, map a strategy, and execute tactics according with it), to a regular chess game. His vision was to win the game (capture the king). His strategy was planning and positioning, and his tactics were his sequence of moves. He explained that once you’ve set a clear vision for your game, you can focus on the strategy. This he organized into three well-known chess-game stages: opening game, middle game, and end game.

Opening Game

In chess, it is key to position strategically for the opening game, then you can focus on options to move (execute), and always be aligned with the product vision.

Neville explained three chess principles:

Own the Center

  • Redesign your business from inside
  • Empower teams so they come up with solutions
  • Focus on outcomes

Develop Your Pieces

  • “Collaboration vs direction”
  • Establish small teams to craft key elements of the process
  • Define through execution
  • Encourage outcome thinking

Castle Early

  • Ensure that all artifacts are in line with the vision

Middle Game

Just as building a product, some tactical moves are often defined by our constraints.

Neville advised us to plan tactically to win small advantages while staying as effective and efficient as possible. As for the opening game, there are two chess principles which apply:

Pin or Fork

  • Identify and focus key weaknesses

Discovered Attack

  • Develop your pieces to build strength
  • Bring teams together when problems need to escalate

End Game

Neville said that the end-game stage is for retrospectives, a time to pause and think about what learned, a time to inspect and adapt.

Key Takeaways

  • Do not pass solutions to a team. Pass problems, so the team can come up with solutions. This is the best way to empower a team and grow a strong team from the inside
  • Always encourage outcome thinking
  • The real value is not when you achieve a goal, it comes in the process of achieving it

Do you want to try playing some chess now?

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