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The Ideal Product Team Structure for the Hybrid Workplace

Guest Author: Felix

Creating and managing a product team is no easy task, especially when you're trying to build it with a location independent team. Much of this struggle can be avoided if you've structured your product team to fit the work model of your organization, and in today's working world, the future is hybrid working. In this article, we'll share a quick overview of the ideal product team structure for product teams working in a hybrid workplace.

Before we dive in though, keep in mind, that having the ideal product team design and product management team structure won't necessarily be your secret sauce to succeeding in a hybrid environment. Building a successful product team involves a lot of iteration and optimization to learn how to work best within the hybrid model. On top of this, you'll also need to consider the following areas to ensure success within the hybrid work model: maintaining vision & company culture, fostering accountability, implementing leadership and collaboration tools, improving communication, supporting change management, and more.

Product Team Structure for the Hybrid Workplace

There are three basic schemes for which you can build a team: Linear, Matrix, or Hybrid.

  • The Linear structure often functions well for small companies where there is a clear hierarchy and centralized decision making.
  • The Matrix structure (sometimes referred to as 'product squad structure') involves the grouping of products, tasks or projects that a specific team manages. For example, you could have a product manager that is overseeing 2 separate projects, which are run by 2 different teams. In this structure, the team as a whole is responsible for bringing a task, project or product to completion together.
  • Within the Hybrid structure, both the linear and matrix structures are combined.

Which of the above should you use to build your product team? In a hybrid working world, you're likely going to use a hybrid product team structure, unless you're a small team. With that being said, all three of the above methods can suit team building in a hybrid environment.

What's key to note here is that within a hybrid structure, you'll likely have some team members following more of a traditional project-centric approach, which may not be the best approach for a hybrid team. Instead, operating in more of a product-based way will likely yield better results. For a more in depth look into the topic, check out the three-part series by Deloitte titled, 'The Product Shift: The Path to Agile in a Hybrid World,' where they explore the key areas in the transition to agile working in the hybrid world. Apart from implementing the right product team structure when building your team, It's the agile way of working and the methods that go along with it that will make all the difference.

Product Development Team Structure

Now that you have a better idea of what to base the structure of your product team on in the hybrid working world, here's a few tips that will enable you to maintain a highly productive and skilled hybrid product team.

Hire the Right Talent

The most crucial thing you need to do to make your hybrid team successful is to hire the right talent. When building a team, the main considerations need to be around the specific requirements and needs of the company as well as the product you want to develop.

Besides looking at the important skillsets of candidates, you need to look for traits like passion, urge to learn and improve, and enthusiasm in your hired individuals.

On top of that, you need to hire the right people for the right job. Keep in mind that product team managers need to have some particular traits, like an entrepreneur mindset and problem-solving ability. On the other hand, team members should have the ability to follow the lead of their team manager.

Develop Your Processes Beforehand

Developing the proper work process beforehand can prevent issues and challenges arising in managing your hybrid product team. Your work processes outline how a specific job must be completed. Having set processes in place, eliminates the risks of problems and confusion in the future as well as provides proper guidance to your team.

Most importantly, to prepare and optimize your processes, you need to refine them. Note down the process, steps, and methods that you use to perform each task. And, remember, once a process is outlined, be open to have it evolve and change. Improvements can always be made to existing processes.

In addition to all this, it's important to structure the work behind the processes, in a way that allows you to have a high-level overview of everything, before breaking each step down into smaller and more manageable ones. To make the role easier to understand for new members, you can include an employee handbook with images, videos, and external resources.

Encourage Open Communication at all Times

One possible drawback of having a hybrid team is that team members sometimes feel isolated, cut off from the office management, with little guidance to perform their tasks. Not to mention, when you have a remote team, everyone is bound to feel this way at one point or another. With that said, it's up to leadership to work towards implementing initiatives to help lesson these feelings.

An ideal way to address this dilemma is by bringing your team together to have regular meetings virtually or in person. Apart from this, you also have to open a communication channel so that your team members can reach you when problems and confusion crop up.

Have a Physical Meet up Destination

Team meetings are often inadvertently underrated. However, they are the most vital component of any working process - whether you work in an office or remotely. But working virtually from time to time, means that your product team is not always physically present. In these situations, more needs to be done to connect your team and improve visibility to ensure success towards your objectives.

For this, physical meet-ups are recommend. This doesn’t mean that you always need to have discussions about the work and production. The team can also work on building strong, purposeful relationships so that each member can work together more efficiently and professionally with each other.

The best part is that the results will be tremendous, and you will be surprised to see the cohesion within your product team at the end of the year.

Cut Down Productivity Leaks

A lack of efficiency in your remote product team can threaten its success. The worst part is that it leads to productivity leaks. It is important to note that productivity tends to decline when you and your team use resources for non-productive activities, such as recording manual data or using redundant data entry. Keep your team on track and motivate them to use their time and resources on constructive activities.

Hybrid Organizational Design

You may not find the perfect product team structure on the first go around, but don't worry. The right model and structure of your team will take time to realize, and that's 100% okay. What's important is that you focus on getting closer to finding the structure that will work for you and your team, and be open to it evolving. Building the team structure will depend on the size of your company, it's collective culture, whether you're a fully hybrid team, remote, or in-office. Once you've identified the structure, you can then focus on optimizing it by hiring the right talent, and developing work processes and hybrid team practices that align with your product team structure.