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Why coaching is NOT a product ops responsibility?

 

Product operations deal with processes, tools and data. They aim to empower product teams and make them more efficient. Product ops could train and coach product teams in using processes, tools and data, however, the core coaching is not their responsibility.
 
In the few last posts here I talked a lot about product ops, what they do and why. Now it's time to talk about what product ops should not do and that's coaching product managers on their core skills. That should still remain to be the main responsibility of product leaders. 

Product ops != senior PM

Product operations role is relatively new in most companies and people with different backgrounds can find themselves in it. Often that would be senior product managers, but that's not necessarily will be the rule all the time. A person could be brilliant in a product ops role, still not knowing how to manage products end to end or how to get from a tactical level of product management to a strategic one. Therefore, one cannot assume that product ops are able to coach PMs on their core skills. 

Product leader = coach

Coaching PMs is the prime responsibility of product leaders. They should plan their hiring, select the right people and organise their professional development in accordance with personal aspirations and organisational ambitions. Product leaders should have an actionable plan to coach and develop their PMs, they should meet regularly and provide relevant feedback based on their employees' performance.

Product ops could facilitate this effort, they can advise on the process, tools or data to use during coaching but the actual work should be done by product leaders. 

Product ops empower leaders to focus on what is important

Often I hear that product leaders are too busy to do their main and most important work - product strategy and coaching their teams. It's easy to see why this could happen. Everyone wants a piece of a product leader, meeting invites come thick and fast, stakeholders require the "highest authority" to provide answers, and it's very tempting to do the work themselves to save some time. Even if such a product leader might appear effective at first, this behaviour is rather short-sighted and might lead to the demise of the entire product team. 

Product strategy and coaching are two of the most important responsibilities of a product leader. And these could not be outsourced. A failure is all but assured for anyone who hired an external consultancy to do their product strategy or sent their PMs for external training without further follow-up coaching inside. 

Product leaders need to structure their work in a way they have time to coach their people. Product ops can help with this by taking over various chores of a product leader. Have an open conversation with your product ops, show them your schedule and find ways together to free up enough of your time to do something no one else can do. This will increase your chances of long-term product success and building a strong, empowered product team. 

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