PRODUCTHEAD: Obtaining an optimal organisation

PRODUCTHEAD: Obtaining an optimal organisation

PRODUCTHEAD is a regular newsletter of product management goodness,
curated by Jock Busuttil.

everything in its right product


Your products will reflect your organisational structure (Conway’s Law)

You can structure your teams around a central function, or as self-contained business units

Periodically re-evaluate the right mix of innovation and optimisation for your organisation

a favour: please share this with other product people

every PRODUCTHEAD edition is online for you to refer back to


As you become more senior as a product leader, and particularly as your organisation grows in size, you’ll find that you become less preoccupied with the day-to-day minutiae of individual products in your portfolio. If you’ve been doing your job well, you’ll have a collection of capable product people in your team, whom you can rely upon to do the right thing without constant supervision.

This should then free you up to consider the higher order questions about the right shape, strategy and capabilities for your team and product portfolio.

The structure of your products and teams are connected

On first glance, it might seem a bit odd to be lumping those considerations both together. But if you think about it, the capabilities and structure of your teams will influence the nature and make-up of your product portfolio to a certain extent, and vice versa.

When you’re thinking about the medium to long-term plans for your product portfolio, you might note that you’re going to need to bolster your team with new skill sets and capabilities in order to start solving an adjacent market problem, or to move into a new market entirely.

You might even need to reshape the structure of your teams to make it easier for particular groups to collaborate more closely. This could perhaps mean moving from having a central team of data scientists to ensuring every multidisciplinary delivery team includes a data scientist.

It all depends on the new types of problem you’re trying to solve and who is going to be best equipped to help you solve them.

Keep re-evaluating the best structure for your teams

It can be easy to settle into a comfortable structure, then as time passes you might start wondering why your teams are gradually losing the ability to innovate, and instead only seem to tweak and optimise.

Or it might be that you’ve set up your teams to focus on aspects of the conversion funnel, perhaps a growth team and a retention team. Because these are divisions that reflect your organisation’s structure, rather than the customer’s journey with your product, this can start to work against your customer’s interest. An example of this is when you start to annoy existing customers (retention team) because your growth team has decided to offer juicy introductory deals only to new customers.

It is generally thought that your team structure should reflect the users’ journey and their relationship with your organisation, rather than forcing your user to jump through arbitrary hoops created by the quirks of your opaque organisational structure.

If you’ve ever been transferred from one call centre operative to another and have to repeat your story each time with increasing frustration, you’ll understand what I mean.

Be mindful about organisational design

My message here is to be mindful of how you organise your teams. With that in mind, I have a couple of longer reads that really explore the topic in depth. Grab a hot drink, settle in, and enjoy the read.

Speak to you soon,


P.S. There’s 20% off passes to PLA’s Product Ops Summit in March for PRODUCTHEAD subscribers this week – take a look below.

what to think about this week

Conway’s Law for product organizations

Conway’s Law is an old but useful idea: the organizational structure of software development teams is reflected in the code that they produce.

For example, creating a “platform” development team and an “applications” team will typically lead to a Platform API. And arguments about whether interesting modules belong to one group or the other (“our team gets to build it” vs. “the other team gets to do the fun stuff”). The technical architecture grows to look like the org chart. In broader terms, how we group people and delineate teams has a real impact on the products we produce.

It’s easy to get overly specialized and lose perspective


Functional versus unit organizations

Company organization structure defines both how and what a company builds. It is also one of the few decisions that a CEO can clearly make. Because organization (org) structures appear to be easily distilled down to simple graphs, it is frequently the case that when a company is doing well a given org structure serves as a model for others to follow; and when things are not going well there’s a chorus to change to some obvious alternative. Reality is far more complex, unfortunately.

Uniformity can be the enemy of the practical


Optimization and innovation in pursuit of growth

“Our industry does not respect tradition— it only respects innovation.”

That’s what Satya Nadella wrote in his opening email to the company shortly after becoming Microsoft’s new CEO. It was a clear call to arms that Microsoft needed to reignite innovation in order to scale the company after roughly 15 years of stagnation. The price of Microsoft’s stock has increased ~3x since he came back because the market seems pleased with Microsoft’s sharpened focus, progress made in the cloud business, and willingness to change how it used to do things in order to compete in the future.

Design an organisation that balances optimization and innovation


recent posts

Should a growth product manager even be a thing?

There’s an ongoing debate about generalist product managers versus emerging product manager specialisms (such as ‘growth product manager’). I think there is room in our profession for both. Let me explain.

“No one wants to get rich slow”


6 tips for presenting slides that don’t suck

This is an updated version of an article I wrote over a decade ago.

All product managers will need to stand up and present to others at some point. Some people are less comfortable giving a presentation than others; that’s natural. Either way, you won’t be helping yourself (or your audience) if your slide deck is atrocious. So here are my 6 tips for presenting slides that don’t suck.

Ditch the slides if you can


My boss wants to set me an OKR on revenue growth. Is this right?

My boss wants to set me a personal OKR [objective and key result] to achieve revenue growth through demonstrable product improvements.

Can you think of any reasons why I should push back on a suggestion like this?


Revenue is a rubbish choice of metric


upcoming talks and events

10th March 2022

Product Ops Summit

The product ops party is back – and you’re invited 🎉

The third instalment of the Product Operations Summit has landed, so join us on March 10 to celebrate the unsung heroes of product management. 🏆

On the mic, we have:

🎙 Product Ops Specialist – Farfetch
🎙 Product Ops Lead – OLX Motors Europe
🎙 Global Head of Product – Shipstation
🎙 Head of Product Ops- Amplitude
🎙 Product Ops Manager – Auctane
🎙 Product Ops Lead – Sana Benefits
🎙 Product Ops Manager – Segment
🎙 CEO – Dragonboat

…plus loads more to come.

Get ready for juicy tips, tricks & insights from those pioneering product ops. 🤩

PRODUCTHEAD subscribers get 20% off an Access All Areas pass, just use PROD20 at checkout 💸

Grab your pass 👉

can we help you?

Product People is a product management services company. We can help you through consultancy, training and coaching. Just contact us if you need our help!

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Helping people build better products, more successfully, since 2012.

PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from chocolate brownies the size of my head.

Read more from Jock

The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management book cover

The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management

by Jock Busuttil

“This is a great book for Product Managers or those considering a career in Product Management.”

— Lyndsay Denton

Jock Busuttil is a product management and leadership coach, product leader and author. He has spent over two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, which provides product management consultancy, coaching and training. Its clients include BBC, University of Cambridge, Ometria, Prolific and the UK’s Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). Jock holds a master’s degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of the popular book The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management, which was published in January 2015 by Grand Central Publishing in the US and Piatkus in the UK. He writes the blog I Manage Products and weekly product management newsletter PRODUCTHEAD. You can find him on Mastodon, X (formerly Twitter) and LinkedIn.

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