At the #MusicMonday edition of ProductTank Oslo, Davide Vitiello, then the director product – listener experience at SoundCloud, talked about his experiences on the topic of focus. For organizations, finite resources translate into need for focus – a challenge that frequently affects product managers. In addition to describing three key steps to achieve this, he outlined a few ongoing experiments with ways of working at SoundCloud.
The What and Why of Focus
Davide puts forward a simple definition of focus: “To do less activity in parallel and do all activities in the same direction.” There are three key reasons to stay focused.
- Maximize impact
- Ensure clarity of objectives while developing products
- Enable delivering and moving to next steps in product development.
How to Focus
He outlines a three-step approach to enabling focused organizations.
1) Define the Mission
Designed to be simple and inspirational, the mission should be generic enough to allow room for creativity, yet strict enough to enable teams to focus
2) Define the Performance Metrics, aka KPIs
Aligned to the corporate objectives, the metrics of measurement should be actionable. They should be able to answer the basic question of “are we focusing on the right things?”. Here he talks about the ideas of A/B testing and reverse A/B testing.
3) Embed the Mission and KPI Within the Teams
Deploying these across the organizational teams, making them a part of daily routines and celebrating achievements is essential. Above all, the validity of the KPIs must be revisited periodically.
While explaining each of these three steps, Davide uses specific examples from the work at SoundCloud. Interesting to note were the iterations around defining and meeting KPIs – adopting lean principles to remain relevant to changing market needs and business environment.
He also spends some time explaining experiments in organizational structure to achieve better focus and the associated challenges. These challenges include lack of scalability, silo-ed development organizations, long lead times to market, specializations spreading too thin and lack of ownership.
“Finite resources” is an undeniable truth in business that product managers come across constantly. Focus is essential in order to deliver value to users and to capture value for the organization. Ensuring that the workforce is engaged and is aligned to the mission goes a long way towards delivering the best user experience and meeting business objectives.