In this November 2020 #mtpcon Digital keynote, Spectra (Adaora) Asala, GM and VP Product, Soapbox at Wistia looks at how you can use process to translate ambiguous challenges into accessible playbooks as your organisation scales.
Watch the video to see the talk in full. Or read on for an overview of Spectra’s key points:
- Process is what you make of it. Don’t see it as restrictive and controlling, rather as principles to follow which serve the team and the company’s goals. It should be empowering and build confidence.
- Process is particularly useful in onboarding and training. It provides templates for discovery, prioritisation and delivery.
- Process facilitates inclusion, from combating bias in interviews to consistent standards and criteria for career advancement.
- Process allows you to operationalise ethics. It allows you to evaluate product decisions through different lenses.
- Process allows you to scale and align teams. It’s important as a huge part of a product manager’s role is managing expectations.
Spectra is on the autism spectrum, so she’s had to be a planner, she says. Having rules and playbooks have helped her to navigate her interactions with others and adhere to social norms. Process is critical to her wellbeing, fulfillment and for navigating her career. But she believes we should be intentional about process, what it does, and be mindful of the people it serves because bad process is disempowering, it breeds contempt and resentment.
Process and Learning
Process can be especially useful for product people who are still learning. Spectra says in her first product role she became quickly overwhelmed by the number of terms and frameworks in the product community, and she found that process was very useful in helping her make sense of her role. “Process for onboarding and training, I see as an anchor for exploration. It provides guard rails for creativity,” she says.
Process Promoting Diversity and Inclusion
She’s a strong advocate of using process to promote diversity and inclusion, and takes us through the inclusive hiring process Wistia to demonstrate this. She says: “It’s really hard to deliver against the values that we espouse, if we haven’t taken the time to codify those values and translate them to demonstrated behaviour and expectations in our teams and companies. So from combating bias in interviews to presenting consistent standards for career advancement, process is also a really powerful way to facilitate inclusion.”
Spectra relates that she always used to take hand sanitiser when travelling because she didn’t realise that many public bathroom tap sensors weren’t calibrated to recognise her skin tone: “This is real-world bias manifesting as historical data,” she says, “Clearly the people who created the first prototype didn’t test with any black people.” Product requirements, opportunity assessments, and so on, are ways we can codify the questions we often fail to answer and operationalise ethics before it’s too late.
Process for Alignment
Finally, expectation management is much harder when people don’t understand each other. Process helps to train the organisation to row together, says Spectra: “A huge part of our role is making sure you’re working with people on the same page, the right people are informed at the right time, and when we’re not using the same language or process to do so, you get chaos, which gets more and more expensive as you scale.”