Tuesday 1 February 2022

Project management approach worth learning from startups

In startups, perhaps the most important thing is that people's hearts are tied to the same rope and move forward and backward together.

after a year of sorting out and adjusting the project process, the project team to which the author belongs at the beginning of this year has carried out a major project management change, from the original painless quarterly kpi task assessment system to the current goal-oriented okr management.


So what is OK? 

Its full English name is Objectives and Key Results, or Goals and Key Results, and the most important purpose is to keep every member of the project focused and spend important resources on improving core metrics. 


The conventional KPI is generally to assess whether the set quantifiable goals and tasks have been achieved, but in actual implementation, some goals are unidentifiable. 

Can effectively solve this problem, as long as the key results are conducive to the set goals, it is worth doing.

why did my project team adopt this project management approach? i'll talk about the specific reasons.

the author is currently in the project, although the product structure is perfect, but in view of the lack of content resources, so did not do a strong promotion, all rely on natural growth, it is reasonable to say that the quality of natural growth of users is generally very high, but the daily life and retention has not been significantly increased, aside from the resource problem, the author as a product manager, the main person in charge of product growth, has been thinking about why everyone is busy, but the product indicators have not grown significantly?

after my own reflection, the author feels that the following two points may be wrong:

1. the overall goal is not clear, resulting in separate formations

although the project team has been implementing the quarterly appraisal system, due to the lack of overall goals, the quarterly plans of each team are all in columns, and the goals are also in opposite directions, and they are not twisted into a rope for the common goal. internet software development is a process of teamwork, and the work plan corresponding to different goals is also different, and the lack of linkage product design naturally cannot achieve the expected effect.

2. the unclear division of organizational structure leads to the waste of public resources

in fact, the team staffing of the project team is still relatively perfect, but in view of the reason that multiple projects of the group company are developed side by side, some groups, such as data groups and web development groups, are public sectors and are not fully governed by a project team. although this is not to blame, after all, it is to save resources, but the work of these groups is completely pushed by individual projects, and is not integrated into the corresponding projects and collaborates effectively with other groups.

let's take an example. previously, the data group (product and development) was a public sector, mainly doing data mining and recommendation algorithms, while the project team where the author was located was to do short video personalized recommendation products, and the importance of this department can be imagined. however, due to the overall goal is not clear and organizational structure problems, the work plan of the data group is not affected by the project team on the author's side, they have their own independent planning, whenever the author does version planning, it is found that many front-end requirements need the support of the data group, and when they coordinate resources with them, they are told that they are doing their own planning tasks and cannot be supported. that's all, but when i saw their planned tasks, i simply crashed, because their task is not at all to solve the current user's content viewing pain points as the goal, just blindly increase or replace the crawled content sources, or adjust the content display priority of each source, completely without linkage with the client side, according to the user's interactive behavior to optimize the intelligent recommendation algorithm, the results can be imagined, the effect is minimal.

as a result, at the end of last year, i often complained and discussed this aspect with the project manager, in fact, everyone knows that this promotion needs to be from top to bottom, so it has not changed. with new financing coming in this year and the product's target task more daunting, this change becomes imperative.

after adjustment, the data product personnel and the client product personnel are divided into a product group, and the data group is merged into the project group (because the company's other projects do not require high recommendation algorithm support) and are jointly responsible for the product goals. at the same time, the system of quarterly planning still exists, but it is entirely oriented towards product objectives. as for the specific quarterly targets, the products and operations are mainly discussed and clarified through data or status quo, combined with the project team's annual goals. for example, through data analysis, it was found that the new user retention rate of the product is currently less than 50%, which is a product indicator that needs to be improved urgently, which has a significant impact on subsequent user activity and retention, so it was comprehensively decided that the goal of the entire project team in the second quarter is to improve the retention rate of new users.

How do you implement a common goal? Goals in OKR are challenging, but key outcomes are quantifiable. Since it is a common goal of everyone, it is necessary for the company and individuals to participate in the formulation process, each person combines the company's big goals, plans what they want to do and can do in their own responsibilities that are beneficial to the company's goals, and then take it out and discuss with their own leader, make trade-offs between priority and feasibility, and summarize them into group goals. Then the groups meet to discuss, so that the project team is transparent and consistent. Of course, at the end of the target cycle, it is also necessary to evaluate the phased goals and outcomes to verify the extent to which the targets have been achieved, and to set and revise the next quarter or even annual targets.

therefore, in order to improve the retention rate of new users, the teams of the author's project team began to plan the quarterly tasks that they could do, what technical optimizations to be made in development, what can be adjusted in the cold-start data strategy in terms of data, how to emphasize product tone from the display, and what behavioral nodes the product manager should guide or encourage users to watch more content or generate more interactions... through this goal orientation, the groups are no longer as separate as the scattered soldiers, but become the same enemy, focusing on a goal, and communicating more smoothly, because everyone knows what is most important.

each phase of the product corresponds to a key indicator, referred to in lean data analytics as the first key indicator, which is a number that is above all else at the current stage and requires the full attention of the project team members. once this indicator is determined, the work of the project teams will have a clear direction, and the basis for everyone to consider and solve the problem will be guided by this goal, which can be described as a rope to do one thing.

as mentioned above is the change that occurred in the first half of the 17th half of the author's project team, as a product manager, the most direct feeling is that it is clearer and easier to do version planning, the boss will no longer casually insert the demand in, the developers can also take the initiative to do technical optimization, the designers will not work completely with the pm as the center, the entire project team has the same goal, whether it is communication and coordination or resource support can be quickly agreed, which undoubtedly has a positive impact on the rapid development of a project.

the situation of the author's project team may not be different from other startups, after all, everyone has a difficult experience, and then after communicating with many startup product colleagues, it is found that sometimes what hinders the rapid advancement of products is not the lack of people and resources, but it is precisely the internal friction caused by the different hearts of the people, everyone has the heart to do a good job, but the difference in strength will only double the effort. in today's project management chaos has become a common phenomenon of startups, okr's management method is definitely a good way to stabilize people's hearts and mobilize manpower to focus on doing things, it is recommended that entrepreneurial colleagues can absorb favorable management nutrition according to their own situation and feed their own products.

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