You can't flip through TechCrunch or verge without hearing about yet another company announcing their Series D or IPO—there's a lot of growth keep up with, and there's a lot of change internally in those companies as well.
In fact, for rapidly scaling product teams, change is often one of the only constants.
Adapting processes and tools as your team and company grow is both critical and complex—and there’s no “one size fits all” solution. Plus, many organizations are still learning how to manage processes and communication with hybrid or fully-distributed teams.
To talk through some of the process-related challenges that product teams can face as they scale, FullStory partnered with Notion for a webinar on knowledge management and product leadership for distributed teams.
Agata Bugaj, SVP of Product at FullStory, and Madhu Muthukumar, CPO at Notion, shared lessons learned from working with fast-growing product teams. Here are 3 key takeaways from their chat.
1. Constantly evaluate what is and isn’t working
As a team grows, processes, communication practices, and tech stacks need to evolve as well. Of course, how that evolution should occur varies enormously depending on rate of growth, specific business objectives, market trends, and many other factors.
And the job is never really finished. A process you implement today may need to be completely overhauled again in six months.
To ensure that outdated practices aren’t weighing your team down, everyone on your product team should be empowered to watch for improvement opportunities. Rather than reaching a major breaking point where processes are broken beyond repair, minor changes and improvements can be made at frequent intervals to keep pace with a scaling business.
For example, if workflows begin to feel muddled within a project management tool because the team is expanding, that doesn’t necessarily mean the team has outgrown the tool. Rather, it could be an opportunity to document processes within the tool to help things run smoothly until the time comes for a larger change (like a more robust project management solution).
2. Know when a change needs to happen
Knowing exactly when to address process or communication challenges can be tricky. An obstacle that crops up once and never again likely doesn’t warrant a change. But when a pattern appears, it’s often an opportunity to scale.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule for when a process or tool needs to change, but there are some indicators. Ask questions like:
How much thrash is happening around the different parts of the product team because of information silos?
How much time is being wasted hunting for context from other team members?
How much miscommunication is happening?
If the answer to any of these questions sounds like an alarm bell, it’s likely time to reevaluate the relevant practices.
3. Find more efficient ways to communicate
Put simply: with more people, it’s critical to find more streamlined ways to communicate.
A product team made up of five people can drop a message in Slack and feel confident that everyone will see it—but this same practice would lead to chaos on a team five times that size, and a more thoughtful communication system is needed.
Again, there’s no silver bullet. But there is an opportunity to open up conversations around communication best practices and create a solution that meets your team’s unique needs. Here are a few tools that might help your team create more efficient communication:
Notion acts as a hub for team- or organization-wide documentation. At FullStory, Notion is a one-stop shop for documentation around processes, facilities, tools, who’s who, and much more.
Loom lets teams create videos that can be shared for asynchronous explainers. Rather than walking every new hire through the same tutorial, record a quick video that they can watch any time.
In Slack, set up an #ask-product channel where people from other teams can come to ask product-related questions, rather than pinging individual team members.
And just for fun, Bwamp is free feedback channel that runs alongside video meetings and allows team members respond to the speaker with sound effects like applause, cheering, clinking glasses, and more.
4. Be thoughtful about change management
Evolving processes, practices, and tooling as a team scales is critical to keep everyone moving forward—and communicating with the team about why those changes are happening is important as well.
Learning a new process or software takes time and mental energy, and team members need to understand the reasons they’re being asked to do so.
Maybe the team has outgrown a tool, a process has become too convoluted to be efficient, or an information silo is slowing things down. Whatever the reason for implementing a change, spell out how it’s going to benefit the team and the business in the long run.
This has been a brief summary of Agata and Madhu’s insights on knowledge management for growing product teams. Tune into the recording of their full conversation here.