Decentralizing Decision-Making is Product Management

What’s the game that you’re playing and how do you keep score?”

Justin Bauer, VP of Product at Amplitude, shares his approach to forming teams that are empowered to make decisions, strategies for improving user retention, and how to get your organization started with data-driven decision making.

After helping large organizations shift to making data-driven decisions while at McKinsey, Justin started and sold a gaming company, and then joined Amplitude as the company’s first product hire.

As Amplitude scaled, leadership naturally moved further from customer problems:

When it was just myself and some engineers it was easy, because we were the ones closest to the problem. But now as we scaled the org, the leadership is actually moving further away from being really really in the details of understanding the customer problem.”

To empower product managers to make such decisions, Justin breaks them into “pods.” Pods are small, autonomous teams with a common objective and measure of success. Justin provides each pod with a vision, rather than a specific direction, and the team works to achieve a desired outcome. Pods benefit from having minimal dependencies and communication overhead.

We defined a pod as a small autonomous group of people who are defined by a common objective and measure of success. We believed that this was really critical because the best product decisions in our opinion, come from those who are closest to understanding the customer. And as we scale it actually becomes harder to do that, not easier.”

Justin shares examples of pods he’s created and how he defines their success metrics.

Each pod aligns with leadership around their six month vision as well as what are the objectives and key metrics that they’re going to move. We make sure that there’s alignment there, but not with direction. We give them the power to actually decide how they’re going to action against the vision.”

He then shares how he helped large organizations become data-driven while he was working as a consultant at McKinsey. Justin recommends starting with one small project and using the results of it to prove value.

We would really try to define, basically, a project around how can we demonstrate results as quickly as possible. Which meant that tracking is very important, because you have to actually be able to track impact. That’s the key. Don’t try to boil the ocean.”

You’ll learn a lot from this episode about team-building, data-driven decision making, and user retention.

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