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WGT: ProductBeats After After Show with Petra Färm [transcript]

Please enjoy this transcript of my conversation with Petra Farm.


This week I was a guest on the ProductBeats Show to talk about building teams for product success. This episode is the after after show with ProductBeats host Petra Färm. Petra is a Product Thinker at Partner at Tolpagorni - if it's product related, she is the person to ask.

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[00:00:00] Lech Guzowski: that was fun. I've really enjoyed yet. Again, being on product Bates love talking to yourselves, all your, all the people that listen to it, to the show it's been absolutely amazing.

[00:00:28] Love the after talk. I thought it would be a good idea to get you onto my podcast so we can have an after, after a talk for the show. Cause I'd love to. Your views for people who are tuning in, basically what we just done weird with Petra. I was a guest on other product beats show. Everything dedicated about product and Petra is the product thinker product, the kind of product host with Tolpagorni and product beats, basically anything to do with product.

[00:00:53] Did you go. Petra is the person to ask and on the show, which will I'll link in the show notes somewhere that you can watch that talk. It was about building teams and the versatility that we need. And we, but we often forget that everybody brings something different to the table, to our teams.

[00:01:10] And it's not just relevant for product managers, for product teams and teams that we build. I'm a big believer. Everybody brings something different. It's about us as leaders molding all that together to try and get that balance of what is good and what is what's not useful what the team needs based on the circumstances.

[00:01:28] And so that's kind of what I would say. I use a lot of sports analogies in that talk again, highly recommend. You have a look, but Petra, I'd love to get some of your views on the. The talk that we've just had maybe, but also kind of around the versatility and product teams. How important do you think that is?

[00:01:46] Petra Färm: With The versatility, or what I thought about your

[00:01:49] Lech Guzowski: The versatility, I get the feedback up the talk later, but the versatility in kind of your experience, that, what, what kind of, what's your take on that? How does it look in the product world?

[00:01:59] Petra Färm: And the product world?

[00:02:00] I think, I think so. I w we work a lot in the, in big complex organization where we actually are building solutions. So there has to be like an. A big number of teams contributing to this solution. That's kind of our niche. High-tech B2B and they tend to be big. So when, when we talk about team I think there will be different teams.

[00:02:22] You want your majority of your work to be done by kind of like end to end team where you have as few interfaces as possible and your kid deliver value in this. But then they're all going to be other teams, more complex teams. Like maybe you work in the platform or in sub domains or something where you're all going to have to handle more interfaces than in the other team.

[00:02:42] So, so I see that there are different types of teams just to make it harder for you now.

[00:02:51] Lech Guzowski: Listen to you. You've asked me some questions, tough questions. Your guests ask me some tough questions there as well. Some of them were philosophical. We went that leverage by the balance, whether you need one or do you, do you create one? And kind of my answer to that was yes. Sorts of you need to strive for that.

[00:03:06] When we went more down the philosophical river, entropy and chaos, that's also part of it is how much you, you create that environment. But Kim would kind of seeing it, hopefully from, from what you've been not seeing in the, in the teams that you work with is when building product teams on the kind of smaller level smaller products to kind of company-wide initiatives.

[00:03:26] Where do kind of organizations go wrong? What's often missing. Do you think in how our teams are put together? Maybe the mentality of, of, of the teams, the mindsets around them? Where do you think things start going south or they don't kind of connect.

[00:03:42] Petra Färm: One thing. We see a lot on that. I also mentioned it already that it is just in the face thing, right? Because what's driving, the complexity for teams are usually the number of interfaces that they have to manage to other parts of the organization or other teams. And so that's a big thing where companies can go.

[00:04:00] That they're actually creating these teams with too many interfaces. And then another thing, if we look inside the team, then what do you do wrong when you're inside? And then we also touched on this and the product bits, like a common mistake is this. You were talking about like a sales person has to star seller, but really create a toxic environment and not to deal with those early can actually ruin teams quite fast.

[00:04:25] And it can be, take a long time to rebuild because of, you know, it takes time to build trust in people. So that's my two things done interfaces and not dealing with people creating toxic environments.

[00:04:38] Lech Guzowski: Yeah, definitely about the toxic minds. Cause we, we did mention that as well, is that sometimes you don't mind might not have the time or the energy to deal with that. So there's other priorities too, to deal with a toxic environment or an issue, whatever that might be, that's impacting the team. But sooner or later we'll catch up with you.

[00:04:52] You sweep it under. Yeah, fine. Okay. Maybe there, the more you sweep stuff over, the bigger it's going to get, and you will trip over it sooner or later. Right. And that's kind of the reality of it. So it's about tacking that I actually often see that with startups, small organizations that have a great culture to begin with, but then as they expand, as they grow, as they see.

[00:05:11] Things start going south because more layers are introduced and people are further removed. The peeve that, you know, the founders are further removed from what's going on. And that scanning is, is important to get that foundation right as you, so that when you scale, you still have that because that will often disappear and that's kind of more difficult.

[00:05:26] So it's easier to address things on a, on a smaller. Thinking big, rather than when you're big addressing the fundamental levels, the fundamental things that you, you didn't put in motion. And I think that's kind of important. So interfaces, what is it about the infoset interfaces that you think either? Do you think that we don't have enough of them?

[00:05:44] Is it the quality of the interfaces that then maybe I don't know the process and maybe that to kind of the corporates to, to stiff. What is it about them? What do you reckon.

[00:05:54] Petra Färm: I really recommend this book. Then there was also in the shaft on the polar base, but team typologies by Matt skeleton. It's a great book talking about Conway's law. You know, that your architecture is going to reflect your organization and vice versa. And I think this interface thing is it's a very human thing.

[00:06:11] So how many humans. Can we relate to how many of these relationships can we manage? And if you have a team with too many dependencies and too many interfaces, you can't build those relationships. And so again, I think it's a really human it's more like how we are as humans. And then when you have this cross dependencies and all of this, you don't get enough out of it because you don't have that capacity as a human being.

[00:06:37] So I think it's that simple in a sense.

[00:06:39] Lech Guzowski: That's the thing, a lot of this stuff is simple. When we talk about it, even some of the stuff that I've mentioned in the talk by general talk about, I often feel like I'm telling people how to suck eggs. So being very, very basic, but that's the thing, it's the basics that are so important, but we use so often.

[00:06:55] Neglect ignore, forget about or don't wanna deal with because they are, although they might be simple, they are a little bit difficult because, well, not a little bit, they are difficult because some often you have to get in touch with some emotions, some feelings, some kind of difficult stuff for you to, to, to accept and and, and share basically that vulnerability that we also mentioned And how often do you see, because we've got obviously product teams.

[00:07:18] So we've got teams in general and organizations and each team, or each function of a, of a, of a team has potentially a different agenda and a different approach to how they do things. I often see there's a, there's a disconnect between that, you know, how they do things, what they believe in, and that's kind of their own, their own.

[00:07:36] They're looking after their own wealth, which in a sense is good, but then it doesn't take into consideration how it fits in with the other teams. Have you, have you noticed that as well?

[00:07:45] Petra Färm: Yes, definitely. And for me, it's, I liked that though, that the teams are different, that they can find their own way, But then you really have to clearly define, you know, the interaction points on what's. What does this team have to produce for others? But I, I kind of liked the idea that you set the teams free a bit because they are not all the same because they're going to be different participants in the team.

[00:08:10] And that means that they need to work a bit differently.

[00:08:14] Lech Guzowski: But then you find that they often pull in different directions because if they're pulling in the same direction, I'm with the, I fully agree with that. But I often find that they actually pull in different directions. So they are, they look after themselves, but in a slightly unhealthy selfish way.

[00:08:28] That is not taken other teams into consideration and causing that gap between the teams. What, what do you do then? How do you make them aligned in so that they go in and pull in the same direction. They keep that identity as a team, but they take others into consideration.

[00:08:43] Petra Färm: So that's something that often actually lands on the product manager, because for me, it's about, and you talked about this when you're scaling up startups that we're talking about the foundation. So we have to be very clear on what we are achieving, you know, what are the goals or the strategy or the vision, or, you know, where are we heading?

[00:09:00] And this. You have to do every day, all the time in everything you say, you know? Because it's it's so easy to just. Take a different route, you know, go somewhere else and it might not even be evil. It might just be that they're thinking that this is better and maybe it is better if you're only looking at this team.

[00:09:17] But if you look at the bigger picture, it's going to go a little bit slower, et cetera, but we will reach em, we will deliver much higher value if we do it together. But then you need to be there everyday and, you know, talk about that.

[00:09:30] Lech Guzowski: Absolutely. I think we often get caught in the trap that we want things to happen. We want that pill that will fix make the headache go away. We'll do one workshop on purpose and alignment and we're happy for the next 12 months now. That's not the reality. I'm afraid it's a good starting point.

[00:09:48] But the fact is it's about getting a little bit deeper and it's showing up every day chipping in chipping away. Bit by bit and, and striving towards that. I actually, it just, I just remembered the other talk that did for you a few months ago, I think was earlier in earlier this year about the tough behaviors that were talked about in terms of, you know, we all have the easy to like behaviors, like tolerance for failure, encouraging people to experiment.

[00:10:10] So, and so, but those tend to be slogans that mean very, very little, and actually not that productive. It's far more important to have them. But have a counterbalance that if you've got a tolerance for failure, you've got potentially intolerance for not being kind of, of incompetence. It's basically that people learn from what they do and having that counterbalance for, to, to have these tougher discussions.

[00:10:36] And I want the, what, the role of how the project manager or product manager is. Plays into all of that and kind of facilitating those behaviors kind of that they want the team to have, to be able to kind of the product project successfully to kind of move things forward and grow the team.

[00:10:57] How on the kind of soft skill side and that behavioral side, how, how do you see the role of the product manager?

[00:11:03] Petra Färm: I think that the role of the product manager?

[00:11:05] is vital and I'm going to quote my grandmother, which I do a lot, by the way, she's from Finland. And she, she grew up, you know, in Korea, it's on the border to Russia during the wars. So, you know, she's a tough. And she's always telling me, you know, and she's always lecturing me on different things.

[00:11:22] Oh, I said, no, she's like 91 and she's still lecturing me. And anyway, she keeps telling me, you know, Petra, the only person that you can ever change is yourself. And I think that's like, I mean, it's also simple, so stupid. Like, okay, of course the only person I can change is myself. So if you need to change a team or the behavior, et cetera, you have to, you know, act like that.

[00:11:44] You have to carry this message. You have to not tolerate or, you know, let know. So there is like, there are no shortcuts. If you're a leader and a product manager is always a leader. It's like an influential leader, very rarely a. You're going to need to start with yourself. And it's when we coach product managers it's a, it's silly things like how you talk, how you phrase, what words are you using?

[00:12:08] They mean a lot more than you think a lot more. If we're going to go from being, you know, internal looking to be external and put the customer first, you have to you in everything you say have to start with the customer. ' cause it's like a transition. The journey is going to take time. You're going to have to be aware of all of these small things.

[00:12:28] Lech Guzowski: I agree with your grandmother, for

[00:12:30] Petra Färm: Yeah,

[00:12:31] Lech Guzowski: Ellison, she's been, she's been around for long enough to still have the right to to lecture you and many, many people for sure, but actually reminded me. I don't know who this quote is from. Is it? I think it's Nelson Mandela or Gandhi be the change that you want to see in the.

[00:12:46] The thing that just reminded me of that. And I think that that is, that is spot on, is that how the energy that you bring to the room is probably the most important thing that you can use as, as a tool to influence the people around you not to manipulate, because I think that that's the difference because often a lot of people kind of are set, have certain papers to manipulate other people to have a certain outcome.

[00:13:07] That's not, that's not the point. We were talking about honesty here, transparency and being who you are to get the best out to be because the, what gets the best out of you won't get the best out of other people. And I think that is equally important, the, the role of the product manager. So you mentioned that you give them tips on kind of how you communicate the signals that you that they send and so on, so forth.

[00:13:31] Product managers often don't have people directly reporting to them. They, they, they are leaders. They're the, kind of the leads on the team on the product, but not in the directory processing waste. They're not responsible for the people's development. And a lot of people then feel that they don't have the right to say or do certain things because, you know, they don't because they're not their manager.

[00:13:53] How D how can people tackle that? How, how do you kind of potentially coach do you do deal with that mindset, that belief quite often in the work that you do or not?

[00:14:02] Petra Färm: Yeah so far, that means that the most important tool for product manager is communication. That is the tool that we can use to lead others. So it's important for product managers to, to hone this skill of communication. And then we don't talk about. Creating power points. We talk about this though, that your character, you know, leading your narrative, you know, and we are as product managers, we are also different.

[00:14:29] So we are going to be different. Some of us are going to build up our story with numbers and facts and that we know, and some of us are gonna build it up by being inspirational and visionary, et cetera. So we are going to be and do this differently. But this is the main tool as a product manager and the, and the, you know, all these sales tools, some models and help, you can get us a sales person read that if you're a product manager, because it's a lot about the internal selling and why couldn't you use this?

[00:14:59] You know, of course it's the same. You have to sell your idea, pitch your product, use these techniques. They are old. They've been around for ages. They work because where you saw.

[00:15:10] Lech Guzowski: I think that's the, that's the bit we forget we're human at the end of the day. Oh, every day from when you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. And even when you sleep, of course you're, you're human. And we, we forget that. I don't know. Maybe somebody plugs into charge like a Tesla, Tesla car. I dunno.

[00:15:22] May, may, may. Maybe there may be. Maybe robots are among us already and we don't even know. God knows. Because that's something that I do often. I do often see people have that mindset, you know, the they're not the manager. How did they do how did, how did they do that? You know, that they don't feel that they have.

[00:15:36] Power point, as you said, and think that's an important thing, which brings me on to another another related point in terms of not being that Python, because I see more and more organizations moving to a self-organizing model where they removed remove managers and traditional sense. And I've, I've seen that in a, in a couple of industries tech industries are industries in general or digital, maybe I should say to, to phrase it better.

[00:15:58] Have you noticed that shift yet in, in product management, web organizations are moving to a self-organized model that people manage their own work and kind of our own, their own individual entities. They have managers in a new, kind of more coaching, supportive role. Is that what you is that what you've noticed as well around the PR in the products fan?

[00:16:18] Petra Färm: We have definitely noticed this, the shift, even though it's kind of slow and it's early to self organizing teams that I have seen now at several several places. But I have not. And the, and the managers are done and they have already, I think in many companies taken on a more coaching role, helping to build a teams, you know, and the way we're supposed to work, et cetera.

[00:16:41] But I also think, I mean, I actually love managers and I think I have been the most successful as a product person. When I worked here really great managers because I hate being a manager and I hate having that responsibility for the full picture of a person. And so that, you know, all the, how did they have it at home?

[00:17:01] Do they have alcohol problems? Are they going to be burned out? Are they, I mean, there are a lot of aspects that the, that a good manager is dealing with that I, as a product person don't have to, and I don't want to, so, so I think, I don't know how it's working, then who's going to take that responsibility.

[00:17:20] If the managers are out.

[00:17:21] Lech Guzowski: This comes back to strength by psychology. You work with your strengths, what you, what you do that, and you recognize what you, what you're good at and what you maybe not so good at what you don't enjoy doing. I think that's an important realization for a lot of people to be able to find themselves better in that workplace, because we talk about organizations and how the organization needs to create a better environment.

[00:17:42] Yes. But I think it's half the job. You need to meet your meet in the middle. It's not that it's all the organization that needs to be, they need to do all the heavy lifting. Now it's the individuals that need to put in the shift as well. That's really, really important. But do you think that self-organizing model that self-organizing teams is something that will work for product teams and is the product manager, then the person who is that glue is that person in the middle holding altogether, taken on that coaching supportive role and not a to do list.

[00:18:14] Petra Färm: And so we ha I have seen this now in different. So actually the first time I saw this was on YouTube, but a Swedish bank. Who did this transformation and they did it using self organizing teams and they, but the w what they did is they assigned product owners or product managers. I don't remember, but they had like a product person and this product person was done responsible for product that they had to pitch.

[00:18:40] And then the teams or people were signing up to be part of that. So they had the product in place and the product person, and then the rest were like signing up. I want to work on this. I want, and that's kind of what you hear that Spotify try to do as well. And so then there was really the product.

[00:18:56] Person who was responsible for selling, you know, pitching their product to make sure that we can build a team around it. And they had like a gallery because they were doing this all at once. So they would, no, they didn't do all at once. They started with like four products or something like that. And then they had a gallery where they put up this four where they were pitching them.

[00:19:17] And I don't think they actually knew who else the product person, because they wanted to have it. People, I don't know if that's right or wrong, but, you know, so they were kind of pitching their product ideas and then people were just putting their names on post-its. This is the team that I want to sign up for, but that we did this, I did this.

[00:19:34] I've been part of doing this at another company as well. And then they was done the other way around actually, because then it was they got bigger responsibility products with the same number of people. And they were like, okay, we're going to have. We do this. So instead of having product teams, as they had, they had like one product team for one product.

[00:19:54] They now have more products than teams. So they decided we gonna instead use and two and teams. So we're going to create end-to-end teams who can work in any of these products. And we want them to be at the same level. That's kind of a decision they took. We want them to be the same level. So not one team.

[00:20:11] More experts than the other. And then they actually let the manager run the whole process. So then it was the manager who was running the process of you know, anchoring this with the people we're going to do. Self-organizing team don't be terrified, you know, this is going to happen. And actually running the workshops and making sure that the, after the teams were organized, you know, meeting with everyone, coaching them, you know, catching them in this and holding them a little bit in the journey.

[00:20:38] So I was truly amazed by this manager. She did. Fantastic. Yup. And the product manager for this product, he was like, he was scared, but he was not involved in the, in the creation of downtown teams.

[00:20:52] Lech Guzowski: Th it can work. And I'm glad, I'm glad to hear that because I've, I've, I've come across it a number of times now I've had a guest on this podcast lubricate from Radiko digital SEO agency in the UK. They've gone through that. And inadvertently they've become that they've set out to do to improve their culture.

[00:21:09] And it turned out that they've moved into being self organizing team and grew I think from 15 or 16 people to nearly 40 it's not just that growth. They became one of the best workplaces in the UK. I think the fourth best place in 2020. And for, for fifth in in the UK, again in 2021.

[00:21:27] So the result of that and it doesn't. It does work, but you just need the right, right. People, right. Teams, because that's the reality. So for organizing teams or leading or giving people, autonomy, giving people independence is not for everybody. And that's what I think we need to recognize a lot more is that everybody might have.

[00:21:44] Slightly different needs for, for the support that they get or might move. We moved into a different role, a different team where things are done in, in some of the work, in a, in a way that suits them better. By self organizing teams, I know there's a high turnover that will always happen that would, that we're kind of concerned with, but for the long-term, that's kind of where.

[00:22:00] Well, it's useful. That's right. It's been an absolute joy. Having, having a chat with you, I didn't ask you the, my first usual question that I always start with all my guests, but I'll ask it now. And that is a bit more personal. We use it, I use it as a icebreaker and that is to find out what you wanted to be when you grew up, when you were little, what was that dream job that, that you really wanted to do when you grew up?

[00:22:21] Petra Färm: That's so funny because I get this question and I know, I don't remember what I wanted to be when I grew up?

[00:22:27] I only remember this when I was in, in high school. So I was pretty old, like 15 or something. And I was doing an intern at the, at the. Like a big Swedish clove company on the floor, you know, selling clothes.

[00:22:44] And that was the worst job I ever had. You know, I hated that job so badly because you had like the, the PA, they were like selling winter clothes. The kids were screaming. The parents were stressed out. All the people working there, no one wanted to work there. It was like a horrible place. And I was just like, I've never, ever in my entire life going to work.

[00:23:03] So that I know where I don't want to work. And I have a very structured, I remember I wrote an essay about it. We had to do it. And I was like, So furious. When I wrote this essay, it was like a lot of anger and I got an a on the essay because he was so emotional.

[00:23:16] Lech Guzowski: So you really that's when the best writing comes out is when you share really kind of poor what's going on yet. Sometimes it's difficult to phrase, but it's, it's raw. It's, it's human. It's real, right. When you try and edit it, it doesn't come out the same way. I'm I'm glad that you've discovered that because they, knowing what we want is often about knowing what we don't want.

[00:23:36] That's, that's something that is also important and I'm completely with you. I, one of the reasons I ask this question is go find. I'm in a similar position. I actually took me a while to remember what I wanted to be when I was little. And they, I just reached out to my family, my parents, my sister, and, and it kind of came back to me.

[00:23:53] And obviously as a boy, the traditional fireman with a fire truck put out fires and policemen were out that traditional part of the fire truck was that it was a big thing. But the other thing that at one point happened was that I wanted to have Shopper a standard on a food market selling things, which is quite interesting because I do have that entrepreneurial mindset, that spirit kind of, I want to, you know, build stuff and, and share with other people and give it to other people.

[00:24:18] And that's kind of always been part of the career that I've had. So it's, it's an interesting journey. And the, what I like about this question is makes people think and make that connection between what they wanted to be. And. They are now and more often than not, there is a connection, no direct one, hardly ever the people do exactly that thing.

[00:24:38] But there is a, the kind of the reason why they want to do. Help people be around people or things like that. It transfers to building teams, to being heads of people in culture, departments, and so on and so forth, that kind of service attitude. And it's quite a delivering joy to people. And one of my favorite ones, I had two guests in a row who said that they wanted to be ice cream truck drivers.

[00:24:58] And I went amazing and we, when we picked it apart, it boiled down to the fact that they genuinely love to spread joy and make people happy. And that's what for me, that's what ice creams do when people have ice cream, usually a sunny, gorgeous day. People are in good, good spirits, good mood. And they've grown ice cream.

[00:25:16] And I think that's that, that connection Anything that you've got going on in the next couple months. Any projects, anything exciting to you that you're working on that you and where people could potentially follow that and learn from the work that you do?

[00:25:25] Petra Färm: We do a lot of exciting things. Actually, so we have a very busy fall. I think for me, one of the most exciting things coming up the reason or soon, I mean, it's actually, I'm going to be the keynote speaker at the, the sign verification conference on system. And this is kind of my background. So it's like going back to my roots because I have a PhD in electronic system to sign and I worked at these companies and this it's these companies, you know, it's my old world that is kind of, I'm going back into my old world.

[00:25:56] And that's, it's so funny. I can, I really look forward to that.

[00:26:01] Lech Guzowski: Amazing. When, when is that and where, where people can potentially find out more registered to kind of, to, to listen to that.

[00:26:08] Petra Färm: It's a it's 26 and 27th of October. It's called a DV con than the sign, a verification conference. It's usually meaning, but because of Corona now than it's going to be digital, which means the more people can, can join. And it's going to be a lot about research and insights in in system on ship design.

[00:26:29] Lech Guzowski: Brilliant. Oh, well, I'll, I'll get the link of you in a little while and we'll include in the show notes for people to register. I think it's gonna be amazing and it's, it's, it's, it's useful to go back to the roots at, to see how things have changed and potentially how far we've come from, where we used to be and maybe what, what else we can learn or revisiting that.

[00:26:47] I think it's amazing. So there's an. Thank you very much for coming on to the after, after talk thank you for having me on your show today and we'll include the links to, to all those talks in in the show notes as well. So for people, if you can check that out, as well as the resources that we will share that Petra, thank you very much.

[00:27:03] It was great having you,

[00:27:05] Petra Färm: Thank you. Lackey was great being on your podcast.


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