Product managers can be compared to the captain of a ship, charting a course for the product team and ensuring that everyone in the “crew” knows what they need to do to get the ship to the right destination. When every crew member understands the overall plan and the part they play, the journey is much more likely to be successful.
Unfortunately, as the experienced product manager knows, ships can easily get off course. How does this happen? A common reason is simply that the team is misaligned.
- Crew members might have different understandings of the final destination.
- Crew members might not have clarity on the specific course you had planned. Even if they are moving toward the right goal, they might start taking a less efficient or more dangerous route than you had charted.
- Crew members might not understand their role in getting the ship from Point A to Point B—creating friction, duplicated work, or unnecessary delays.
What are some key signs that a product team is misaligned?
Misaligned teams often feel like they are not speaking the same language as one another. If you are noticing that a lot of time is spent clarifying misunderstandings—whether around different vocabularies or confusion over who is responsible for what—you are suffering from Misaligned Team Syndrome.
Also, silence is not necessarily golden for a product team. Product managers must ensure each team member is clear on their priorities and understands how to constructively communicate issues and resolve any roadblocks to their work.
When product managers are constantly stepping in to tweak and monitor work on a micro level, this can be a symptom of misalignment. Sometimes the issue can simply be poor management technique, but oftentimes, there is a disconnect between the product manager’s understanding of what needs to be done and what has been understood by the rest of the team.
A product manager must set the conditions for alignment—and hopefully eliminate the likelihood of micromanagement. By what success looks like and helping each “crew member” to understand their role, product managers can empower teammates to work well both autonomously and collaboratively.
Everything is Urgent
A carefully constructed product roadmap defines not only your end goal but also the milestones and checkpoints along the way. If everything is urgent, that means priorities have not been defined—and that means a true strategy is absent from the picture.
If your team is mostly reactive instead of proactive, if you are always chasing or missing deadlines, or if your team members cannot explain how their work impacts business outcomes, you’ve guessed it: your team may be misaligned.
Individual Work vs. Teamwork
This can be a more subtle issue, but if team members are laser-focused on their own work but show little sympathy or understanding of the needs and priorities of others, this is a sign of misalignment. A team is not just a composite of individuals. Each person needs to have a grasp on how their objectives and the objectives of others support the same vision and mission.
Take note if your daily stand-ups become more of a slew of status updates rather than a time to surface ways to collaborate better. Encourage true teamwork by intentionally building rapport and focusing your meetings on how team members can join together on projects, work through roadblocks, or identify next steps to move the plan forward.
If your diagnosis has become clear and your product team is misaligned, don’t despair! Invest the time into developing a strategic communication tool like a product roadmap to get your crew back on the same page, charting a course to the right destination together. Get started on the journey to greater alignment with Product Culture’s Masterclass on Product Roadmapping.