How to Cultivate Adaptive Product Leadership, by Jenn Kim & Sabin Sadeh "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs August 08 2020 True Product Development, product leadership, product leadership skills, ProductTank, ProductTank San Francisco, ProductTank SanFrancisco, San Francisco, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 408 Jenn Kim and Sabin Sadeh at ProductTank San Francisco Product Management 1.632

How to Cultivate Adaptive Product Leadership, by Jenn Kim & Sabin Sadeh


In this ProductTank San Francisco talk, Jenn Kim and Sabin Sadeh, Product Leads at Potato, share a method for how product managers can recognize when things aren’t going according to plan and get things back on track.

Watch the video to see their talk in full. Or read on for an overview of their key points:

  • Effective product development
  • Too many cooks
  • Missing the forest
  • Spinning compass

Effective Product Development

No product team is perfect and product leaders will find themselves in various situations where they need to mature to face bigger challenges. An effective product development team has great product clarity and team unity. This means that everyone is clear about the mission of the company and how that relates to the overall strategy, objectives and individual projects and tasks. Great team unity is achieved when everyone believes in the work they are doing and understands the impact they are making. There is a clear structure and members of a team feel safe to be able to take risks that can potentially benefit the company.

Too Many Cooks

This occurs when there is product clarity but a lack of team unity. In this situation, there are elements of low trust and competing solutions. This can result in uncomfortable meetings and unclear responsibilities among team members. To fix this issue, product leaders should be “facilitative” and seek to build a shared understanding and alignment by modeling curiosity and making sure everyone’s voice is heard.

Missing the Forest

Sabin explains a situation where team members are jumping to solutions before thinking through the outcomes, ignoring the big picture. This is characterized by a heavy production mindset and frequent changes. To get the team back aligned, product leaders should focus on slowing things down in order to speed up, and taking time to reflect before making decisions.

Spinning Compass

In this situation, a team finds itself with no clear direction and no one willing to commit to a course of action. It is characterized by agreement without commitment and a lack of urgency among team members. The solution for product leaders is to prompt action without creating panic by understanding roadblocks and creating momentum.

The key takeaways from this talk are that product effective product development is an almost perfect scenario that evades most teams. While product leaders might not be able to achieve it, they can adapt their leadership style in different situations to move towards it.