What is product coaching? Product coaching is an emerging discipline that is not yet clearly defined.
A product coach helps people, teams, and organizations adopt a modern product mindset and practice to be more successful.
This includes innovation management, strategy, product discovery and the transformation process into a modern product organization.
Notwithstanding our experience and the global evolution of product coaching discipline, we can at least identify five fundamental types of product coaching work:
Product Discovery Coaching
This discipline is about helping a team (or organization) adopting a product discovery mindset and practice.
This specialty has two components:
- coaching a product (or team) in the process of discovering what to build and integrating the practice in their normal operation
- coaching an organization to integrate product discovery into its way of working
In the second case, key tools such as OKRs and the product roadmap are also introduced, and there is also a significant change management component.
Product Management Coaching
This specialty focuses on the product professional; who can be a Product Owner or a Product Manager.
We typically work on both the day-to-day of a product manager and the development of leadership skills required by the role.
Unlike product discovery coaching discipline, in which we work with the team (or the organization), in this type of coaching we do purely individual work.
Product Leadership Coaching
When coaching product leaders, the focus is typically on helping them with their three fundamental responsibilities: provide intent, inspire and develop talent.
- Set the direction and develop the leadership skills required to become an effective product leader.
- Design and grow a flexible and adaptable product organization around empowered product teams.
- Develop people and drive a modern product management practice.
Product Strategy Coaching
This discipline consists of accompanying the product leader(s) in the design, deployment and review of the product strategy.
There are three main questions you need to answer to create a solid strategy:
- What is the challenge?
- Where do we want to play?
- How do we plan to win?
When we think about strategy we must take the point of view of a chess player, not the point of view of visionaries or storytellers.
In this process we start from a product vision. From there we analyze the current situation with tools such as Wardley Maps to identify the main challenges. From these challenges we define the objectives and the guiding policy to achieve them, and from there we draw the product roadmap.
Apart from accompanying the product leaders in the strategic design and deployment process, we also accompany them more sporadically in reviewing the objectives and the roadmap based on the insights that emerge from product discovery and product delivery.
The difference between a strategy consultant from McKinsey or Bain & Co. and a strategy coach is that the consultant provides his solution to your strategic challenges whilst the coach accompanies your product leadership team through a thought-provoking and creative process to increase your strategic situational awareness which enables you to define and implement the best possible way forward.
I honestly think that in an organization worth its salt, the main benefit of working with a product coach is that the destiny of the organization is once again in the hands of the leaders.
Product Organization Coaching
This is the most complex discipline, as it includes all of the others.
Product organization coaching is about helping the whole organization transform into a modern product organization – a product-led organization.
It would be the modern equivalent to the traditional Lean transformations of the last century. In essence they are the same, although they differ in specific aspects in relation to practices and technology.
To be successful in this transformation process, it is necessary to create a coaching team that can work effectively at each of the above levels, coordinated by a coach with experience in organizational transformation as well as extensive knowledge of all of the above areas.
This coach will work with executive team to help them make the required changes in mindset, structure, practice and reward systems needed to move from a feature-team based company to empowered product teams; in other words moving from a project to product-led organization.
There are currently other types of coaches, such as Growth Coaches and Product Marketing Coaches. These profiles are much more specialized and even less common than the previous ones.
In the coming years we hope to see a consolidation of specialization, as well as the development of the practice within companies. In the same way that in the past centers of excellence were created for agility, quality or technology.