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Why You Need Influence For Product-Led Transformation and How You Get It

By Rebecca Dorsay
ImpactBlog

Talent is one of the 7 Ts of Product-Led Transformation – one of those seven crucial elements that you need to transform your company into a product-led dynamo. It seems obvious, to effect product-led transformation you need the right people with the right skills to change your company culture and make the change permanent.

For Anthony Murphy though, many organisations are doing this in the wrong way. Many people think that to transform your company culture, you need to change the way people think. Anthony says that first you need to change the way people behave. The way that people think, and cultural change, will then follow. He gives the example of a seated crowd on a hillside at a music festival. Nobody is dancing. Then one person, alone, starts to dance. Slowly others follow until the whole hillside is dancing.

To change the way people behave you need to influence them, but influence doesn’t always come easy.

Changing a company’s culture into product-led

Firstly, we need to remind ourselves of what a product-led transformation is: it’s one where you transform an organisation into one that puts discovering and quantifying customer problems at the heart of the business. One where a company truly seeks to understand customer problems before solving them and so focusing on the fundamentals of real value creation for the customer. This can be a very significant change at many companies, one which requires people to change both the way they think, and the way they behave.

 

So how do we change behaviour at a company? Anthony thinks the key is influence. The transformation team, often the product team, needs to change people’s behaviour by modelling the behaviour they want to see and using their influence so that this behaviour spreads throughout the organisation. The tricky bit, as a Product Leader, is whether your team has the right skills and the right levels of influence to make this change happen and make it stick.

Assess the skills of your team

Anthony suggests, as a first step, to see if your team has the necessary skills to effect transformational change. He likes to use a framework for this, something like the Association of Product Professionals Skills Matrix.

Once you have mapped your team’s skills on the matrix then you’ll understand where the gaps are. For example, you might find that your team is great at operational tactics, like road mapping and design, but poor at adaptive skills like communication and forming stakeholder relationships.

Getting the right talent and skills for product-led transformation

Once you’ve figured out where your strengths and weaknesses are, then you need to work out the best way to strengthen your team and get the skills you need. According to Anthony, there are three main ways of doing this, each has its strengths and weaknesses.

  • External consultants. Generally the quickest way to bring in the skills you need. The biggest downside is whether these skills are retained within your organisation. If they’re skills you need long-term, then you should find a way for the consultants to pass on their skills.
  • Hiring new staff. Generally the second quickest, but it can be difficult to find the right people quickly, especially if the skills you need are in high demand.
  • Training existing staff. Usually the slowest, but often the best option for retaining and motivating staff. Also, you might identify through your skills assessment that an individual has part of the skills needed, so getting them to the right level might not take as long as you initially thought.

Why influence is important and how to get it

Ken Sandy explained how important influence is to a product manager’s career, well it’s similarly important to product-led transformation. Without influence you and your team could be doing all the right things but nobody will follow your lead. Influence is what turns individual actions into surging, unstoppable movements.

Influence is a skill which often builds naturally over an individual’s time at a company. As you become better at your job, others recognise this and you start to assume a leadership position. This is often informal at first, as others look to you for guidance and then start to follow your lead. With your continuing success and build-up of influence it results in formal acknowledgement by being given responsibility for a team, product, or practice area.

While developing influence often happens naturally and informally, it doesn’t always happen. A lack of influence can frustrate product managers, stopping them being effective in their jobs, halting their careers and hampering their attempts at product-led transformations.

Anthony and the Association of Product Professionals have developed a framework that acts as a step-by-step guide for product managers to develop their influence within an organisation.

  1. DO– perform tasks in the skill area to completion at a high degree of quality, without guidance from my manager.
  2. COLLABORATE – work with peers, customers and stakeholders to ensure buy-in and alignment, and they actively seek to influence and embrace the output of my work in the skill area.
  3. IMPACT – I drive initiatives in the skill area resulting in significant positive business outcomes and learnings.
  4. GUIDE – I am called upon to coach and mentor others; I contribute to major efforts outside of my immediate purview.
  5. LEAD – I am formally empowered by the organisation to own my skill area.
APP Framework

While product-led transformations have many critical components, influence is one that’s often overlooked. It’s also one which takes longer for new hires and external consultants to build. If you have existing staff members that are talented, reliable and hard-working they will already have a good reputation in the company. It’s often quicker to help them to develop their skills and influence within the company than bringing in a new person who needs to start from scratch in building their own reputation and the necessary stakeholder relationships.

Following Anthony’s framework can give you and your team a guide to follow in building the influence you need to create the transformation you desire. This can be critical in building something so ephemeral as influence, as Anthony reminds us: “influence is not about how we view ourselves, but rather how others perceive us.”

 

From the Town Hall


After every episode, we hold a town hall meeting where members come together to discuss the content of each episode, ask questions, and get help and advice from our product experts. Here are the main takeaways from this town hall.

 

On customers, personas, problems and solutions

  • Find what the impact of a customer problem is. When you’re interviewing a customer and identify a customer problem, don’t forget to ask them what the impact of that problem is. The impact might be obvious to the customer, but may not be to you and will give you a sense of how important it is to the customer that you solve that problem. Questioning more deeply can also lead you to other problems (either upstream or downstream) which may be better ones to solve, or allow you to develop easier or more holistic solutions.
  • How do customers solve the problem now? It’s important to find out exactly how customers are solving a current problem, what their solution or workaround is. This will help you to identify if the problem really is a ‘burning platform’ that is going to compel them to change. Change is difficult for people, so for them to change, for them to start using your solution, the pain of change will need to be substantially less than the pain of not changing.
  • How much detail should you give customer personas? It’s important to give them enough life so that they come to life and seem like real people. If the details are relevant and interesting, then people will come back to them and remember them. It will also allow internal stakeholders to empathise with them and want to solve their problems.

On outcomes vs outputs

Setting the right objectives or goals will have a big impact over how your team works. If your objectives are mostly outputs then the team will hard to achieve those and may work in quite a tactical, manner. For example if the goal is deliver x features on time, then that’s what they try to achieve. They care less about how good the feature is or what it ultimately achieves. Whereas if you focus on outcomes that are related to customer problems then the team thinks in a much more customer-led way and is often more creative. For example if the reason people use your product is to save time, then your goal could be to decrease the amount of time customers spend on each session of your product. That then gives the team scope to think much more creatively about ways they can meet that goal that will ultimately deliver greater benefit to the customer.

Did you miss out on last month’s episode recap? Read it now.