This week on Product Love, I sat down with David Nash, the principal consultant and curriculum lead at 280 Group, the world’s leading product management training and consulting firm. Before joining 280 Group, David held product roles at Intel, CDK Global, and NAVEX Global. 

David is also the co-founder of Product Camp Portland, which is a year-round, user-driven “unconference” that brings together product managers and leaders. In this week’s episode, we talked about what healthy tension means for product managers, and why David is the biggest fan of product ops. 

Healthy tensions

We talked about the friction between product and other departments, which David describes as “healthy tensions.” During his time at NAVEX Global, David felt that product had the perfect relationship with the dev team. They could even finish each other’s sentences. Every product manager, director, and dev team member shared a level of closeness and trust that led to true alignment.

How did they maintain that trust? With data. This solidified their relationship with dev, who understood they were never building anything “just because.” They were building something that users wanted — and the product team could prove that with hard numbers.

However, healthy tensions are expected. Every team wants product to build something, and not every request is possible. For example, CSMs want product to build every feature requested by their customers. And sales considers every enterprise feature to be an absolute necessity.

So how does David deal with this? He pursues transparency and manages expectations. Each team needs to know what the product team is working on and why (or why not). For the product team, he tries to foster executive buy-in, takes the heat for his team when possible, and works to change every discussion from output-oriented to outcome-oriented. He believes it’s important to give your product team the headroom to do discovery and product planning. Product leaders should prioritize creating a safe space for the product to grow.

Product ops

David says he’s the world’s biggest fan of product ops. I’m definitely in that club, too. Everyone knows rapid, high-growth companies come with growing pains, and those always hit the product team hard. But like all the existing ops functions, (sales, rev, engineering, etc.), these new teams are all about creating automation that can knock down barriers and silos.

Product is the single most important area of the company to have connective tissue — all teams rely on product. And product ops is the perfect solution.

At NAVEX Global, product ops managed roadmap governance, release management, pricing, and product data, as well as standardized the playbook for capturing and instrumenting data. It proved to be a highly effective team that drove success.

Want to learn how David got into product management? Listen to the episode above.

About the Author

Eric Boduch is the chief evangelist for Pendo. Previously, he served as the CEO of Brainstorm SMS Technologies LLC (dba SMaSh, Inc.) and was the co-founder and CEO of several other companies. Eric holds a Bachelor of Science from The School of Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Electrical and Computer Engineering and is a graduate of its Executive Management Program.