It's easy and obvious for everyone to come together and share in the company's larger victories like closing a big deal, but I decided to devote some time to acknowledge, if not revel in some of our minor triumphs too.
Last month, we executed the largest sale ever in the company's history. And while there was no small amount of boisterous high fiving going on over in Sales, it was a great opportunity to bring all the departments together and spend a few moments cheering as a single group.
A big product win too
I was celebrating of course but for a slightly different reason. I was particularly encouraged by this deal because of how it reflected on our current product. It would seem that we had met the customer's needs exactly. After concluding a long sales cycle (not uncommon for an enterprise software company), we signed a contract with the customer without having to promise any changes in the core product or adjustments to the roadmap (quite uncommon for an enterprise software company).
Rarely have I been able to avoid the uncomfortable product roadmap discussions with well-meaning prospects on one side and hovering, commission-obsessed sales reps on the other, trying to move the deal along by finding the right words that would address the urgent needs for "missing" features.
Product Managers dream of building the exact right product for their target customers and when a big one lands, you have to feel good about it.
So this was indeed a victory for Product and also for our dear friends in Product Marketing. Product Managers dream of building the exact right product for their target customers and when a big one lands, you have to feel good about it. But those victories can be short-lived as all eyes inevitably turn toward the next challenge.
What drove this decision
It is hard to say if or when we'll ever top this milestone, but it was another event that happened this past week that made me stop and think about the smaller accomplishments that also deserve recognition.
We had recently rolled out a new product which has been well-received by customers. One, in particular, an early and avid adopter, had recently become frustrated when a change to their own production environment temporarily "broke" our app. They called up and asked us to help remedy the problem because they couldn't go back to the way things were before using our app.
I immediately thought of that great 1-question survey popularized by Sean Ellis that helps Product people test for this exact outcome: if enough users respond by saying that they would be "very disappointed" if they were not able to continue using your product, then you should feel confident that you are the right track.
We had experienced that exact outcome and even if it was only 1 customer, I still call that a victory! And I wanted to play up those wins with the troops too.
The decision: Recognize and applaud the lesser product successes too.
As a senior team member in the company, I have more visibility than most when it comes to departmental activity. I see the accomplishments being made every day and now I wanted to share those positive results with the appropriate parties who were not always directly connected to the action.
Plan of attack
My loose "plan" was simply to keep an eye out for opportunities where I could funnel reactions and reports back to the folks who would otherwise not hear of them. Along the way, I was a little curious to learn that there were not enough regular channels or venues for doing this and that sometimes, I had to get a little creative.
Share glowing feedback from a significant product demo
Early in the week, I delivered a custom product demo for an important, external party who I would position somewhere between future business partner and potential investor. Several times during the demonstration, I received compliments including an amazing, unsolicited comment from one of the women who was "weeping a little," wishing she had had the chance to use our product while working for her previous company.
At the very next Engineering standup meeting, I relayed the flattering remarks with the team. Some rolled their eyes at the glowing hyperbole, but I could tell they appreciated the message.
Appreciate engineering feats
Later in the week, we reached what I called a golden spike moment, referring to the 19th-century achievement of connecting the two sections of the First Transcontinental Railroad. In our case, two Engineering teams had connected a major new feature with its corresponding new configuration page.
We were now able to demonstrate how to build a new configuration and then immediately use that to launch the end-user tool. Achieving this (long overdue) task meant that we could now address a key pain point for our customers. I celebrated by delivering artisanal pastries to the teams at the sprint planning meeting.
Join in the "New features" huddle
The Product team was very excited to have rolled out two new, high-profile features in the last major release. However, we knew to temper our enthusiasm as it often takes several weeks or even months before customers latch on to and begin utilizing them in any significant way. Such is the pace of B2B software.
But one early indicator of success is when our own internal implementation team picks up the new stuff and starts incorporating into their projects. During this same week, we were pleased to see our folks schedule a huddle to share some early tips and best practices with each other - a true indication that we had delivered something of value.
I invited the Product team to listen in on the discussion and together we basked in the indirect validation as we heard stories about how the new features would ultimately make their jobs easier and deliver better value for our customers.
I celebrated the win with the Product team over a nice lunch (which I ultimately turned it into a working lunch to conduct a customer journey mapping exercise - ha!)
You don't need always need to celebrate with free food, but I have found that people do like to feel appreciated. Our teams have certainly responded to the positive reinforcement and I will continue to keep an eye out for opportunities to share good tidings.
Look for more reports from theProductPath around product culture, product feedback, and validating products here on PM Decisions.