The Nacho Bassino Hypothesis: Success at Scale Starts with Setting the Right Product Direction

Nacho Bassino has been leading product teams for over ten years in different companies and industries. He also is a speaker, teacher, and coach, working with organizations in different countries to help product teams and product leaders improve their practices and skills to achieve greater impact. He is the Chief Product Officer at Best Day.

In this episode of the Product Science Podcast, we talk about his new book, Product Direction, and how to develop a product strategy in your organization.

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Questions We Explore in This Episode

The Nacho Bassino Hypothesis: Success at Scale Starts with Setting the Right Product DirectionHow did Nacho transition from software development to product? How did his frustrations with leadership decisions and prioritization drive him to seek out a product role? What kind of data did they look at developing social games for the Latin American market? What data were they missing, and why do you need to know the why behind the what?

What were the challenges of hiring in a market where product management was a relatively new concept? What skills did Nacho look for to identify candidates with the most potential for growth? Why can hiring be a major barrier to scaling a team? What are the challenges of working with stakeholders when you’re trying to scale up? How do you get the time you need to learn from your users? How did Nacho convince the rest of the organization to show unfinished products to users for feedback by starting small?

How did Nacho help Best Day transition from a project-oriented organization to a product-oriented organization? What was the first thing Nacho did with new hires and newer product managers to transform his organization? Why is being clear about expectations so important when you’re doing this kind of work? How does this make coaching easier?

What is Nacho’s book, Product Direction, about? Why is there so little material out there about product strategy? Why is it so much harder to explain how to do product strategy than it is to simply do it? Why do you need to give teams challenges to solve rather than objectives if you want to make them empowered? Why is it just as important to share what you’re not pursuing and why when you decide to move forward on something?

What are the signs that you probably don’t have a product strategy, and why is it a bad sign if you’re wondering if you have one? Why is it communicating your product strategy throughout your organization so crucial? How does data connect to product strategy? How do you balance quantitative and qualitative data when you’re making product strategy decisions? How does Nacho use data to measure outcomes? What is the product scene like in Latin America?

Quotes From This Episode

A product strategy that is not communicated is as good as a non-existent product strategy. Click To Tweet The role of the product leadership is a lot of coaching and providing context. And the context, whether you like it or not, requires a lot of repetition. Click To Tweet For product strategy, product teams focus too much on the product data, because that's the most readily available information. We should look at customer research, customer feedback, and industry and market trends for a broader view. Click To Tweet


Holly Hester-Reilly: Hi, and welcome to the Product Science podcast, where we’re helping startup founders and product leaders build high-growth products, teams and companies through real conversations with the people who have tried it and aren’t afraid to share lessons learned from their failures along the way. I’m your host, Holly Hester-Reilly, founder and CEO of H2R Product Science.
This week on the Product Science podcast, I’m excited to share a conversation with Nacho Bassino. Nacho has been leading product teams for over 10 years in different companies and industries. He also is a speaker, teacher and coach, working with organizations in different countries to help product teams and product leaders improve their practices and skills to achieve greater impact. Nacho is currently the chief product officer of BestDay. Welcome, Nacho.
Nacho Bassino: Hi Holly. Thanks for having me. Really excited to be here.
Holly Hester-Reilly: I’m excited to talk with you. So, I always like to begin with getting to know a little bit about people’s journeys. So, how did you get into product?
Nacho Bassino: Well I believe it’s the typical software developer to products path, but based in Latin America, so probably a bit different. I started studying software engineering in Argentina, working as a software developer. I believe the aha moment, when I decided to switch, I was working for six years as developer. At that time, I was working at Verizon, the telco. So they had a software factory in Buenos Aires and I was displeased about many things about how we worked. Many things about how we worked were not comfortable for me.
In particular, one of the most critical ones was that we didn’t know why we were doing things and the impact those things have, so we were basically doing requirements and working on requirements. I remember once, I was leading the team and we had a very stressful release and a lot of weekends we worked, so in that particular time I pushed my manager for more information, and what was the impact of that very critical thing that we were doing, and after a few weeks I realized that we didn’t have any impact at all. And so someone decided that it was a great idea and really pushed us to do it really quickly, very fast, but had no impact at all. And that’s where I started wondering why or who were deciding these priorities and who were deciding what we should be working on.
And by the same time SAL methodologies were becoming popular, so I take a Scrum course. I realized there was a position called Product Owner and my manager was in charge, actually, from prioritization, but he was a [inaudible] high-level or long-term prioritization, so I suggested that we can start working with Scrum, and I would be doing the product owner role for our team, so working on more day-to-day definitions and day-to-day prioritization. Of course, they had no idea what I was going to be doing, but I took the opportunity. It was interesting and of course I wasn’t a product owner at all, and that organization was very waterfall and very different from anything we can expect from real Product Owner or real product manager, even.
But that was the aha moment, so I started looking for product management positions. This was 12 or 13 years ago. In Argentina, or in Latin America in general, product management became popular, a lot of years after it was popular in America or Europe. So I found probably one of the few positions available for product management. It was a gaming company, a social gaming company, and the founders were from the States and from Germany, so they had this more modern structure in mind. And I was very lucky because, of course, material was not available for product managers, so they kind of coached me into the role and I had peers that coached me into the role, so that’s how I started and was, probably, very fortunate to find that opportunity.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Tell me more about that company. What size was it when you joined?
Nacho Bassino: Well actually, we were probably 100, 150, something like that, and we grew to 500 people in probably three or four years I was working there.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Oh that’s fantastic.
Nacho Bassino: Yeah. And the space was social gaming, so it was a time when Zynga were doing social games for Facebook, we were doing social games for the Latin American communities, especially in Brazil. We were very strong in Brazil. So I started as a product manager and I grew to some group product manager positions.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Awesome. And what was product management like at that organization? How many people were on the product team and how was the practice done?
Nacho Bassino: So, we were probably eight product managers, working on different stuff. So the company was structured around games, so I started, for instance, in the social poker game and I reported directly to the CEO. And I would say that product was very [inaudible]. We worked in a very data-driven way, so most of what we prioritized was based on metrics. But it was interesting because it was a freemium model, in which we started with your free pack and you can upgrade to pay user with some advantages. And actually, it was interesting because we could experiment a lot with those free users and how we can convert them. So it was very data-driven and experimental, and I think it was great.
Holly Hester-Reilly: That’s awesome. What about the qualitative side? Did you talk to users very often and do usability tests and…
Nacho Bassino: No, that’s exactly what I probably learned after. The good thing was that we had plenty of users, so we were able to be very granular with our metrics and our experiments. But many times… And actually, it was an interesting experience. I learned this in the poker game, that we had a lot of information about what was happening but we didn’t know why that was happening. And I reflected on this a long time after because we didn’t do any user interviews in that company.
Holly Hester-Reilly: So it sounds like obviously the company still grew. You had lots of users and therefore lots of data, so you were able to experiment, and even if you didn’t know why you still could make the things happen, right?
Nacho Bassino: Yeah, exactly. It’s like throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. So that was probably the approach. And again, since we were doing fast iterative experiments, eventually we found winners.
Holly Hester-Reilly: So what did you do after that?
Nacho Bassino: After that I joined Despegar, which is the largest OTA in Latin America, so it’s like Expedia for Latin America. And I was there for five years and again I had the opportunity to grew. Actually, I usually say that that was my real school of product leadership because I grew from product manager to Director of Product. And I think I was really lucky because I had the opportunity to… My group had the launch of new businesses, so, that was a long time ago, but I launched the first mobile application. We launched the corporate travel side of the business and many more initiatives. But it was interesting because I had to scale teams and make these new launches a reality.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. So tell me more about scaling teams. What was that like? What were some of the challenges that you faced?
Nacho Bassino: Well I would say that in Latin America product management became popular recently, so there were not that many product managers available, so much of the scaling was hiring people who we thought may have the ability to grow and coach them, so it was very interesting and very challenging from a leadership perspective.
Holly Hester-Reilly: And what skills did you look for when you were trying to find people who had the potential to grow?
Nacho Bassino: Some of the context is probably that we had a lot of project organizations in [inaudible]. There’s a lot of software developments. So most of the roles that we were receiving were product analysts who wanted to do something more. So I looked for this ability to talk with users, being data driven… or being more than data driven but willing to understand how the product impacted. So it’s not just looking at numbers but trying to have insights about those numbers. And finally, this collaboration skill, communication, I would say, that is probably very generic, but this ability to talk with many different sides of the organization and being able to communicate well.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah that makes sense. Were there any things that you found that were common to find but were good signs that somebody wouldn’t work out? Or were there any sort of gotchas that you uncovered?
Nacho Bassino: Yeah. I think that the most challenging side of working with these product analysts or people who were going from project organization, was this mindset or this need to have these clear milestones and working with an organized plan and being more focused on the outputs than the outcomes. I think that was the most challenging part. And there were signs of that more, I would say, in the experience than in the interviews. So when someone was working for five years in that way and he or she felt comfortable working that way, was a sign that maybe this one wouldn’t work.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That makes sense. So, hiring was one of the challenges that you faced when you were working on scaling up the teams. What were some of the others?
Nacho Bassino: I think that the other ones was probably more internal to the organization and something that happens to many product organization in Latin America, growing into product, actually, was working with stakeholders and, in this particular situation, I was working new product lines. It was very interdisciplinary work, in which we had a lot of stakeholders coming from these different disciplines, like marketing or science or operations, and being the one who articulates the product that we all launch to market was challenging because, of course, and probably this is something that comes with any product organization team actually, but all of them had their opinions, but not all of the opinions could be heard at the initial launch. So we needed to make a lot of compromises and then explain to them, in a nice way, why we couldn’t do that at this moment.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. What were some of the ways that you would make those decisions? Did you have any techniques that helped with deciding what was in the first launch?
Nacho Bassino: Yeah, actually I think that what I would say was the slicing work and of reducing using the scope to have an initial product that will be able to add some value to the users and then keeping the other things for regular releases. So, and I guess this is something that we brought as a product organization to the company, we were trying to be very iterative and very incremental and learn about the user as fast as possible. So we had some stakeholders, like marketing, who wanted to have a perfect product to pitch to the users, or we have operations, who wanted everything automated from the start. So, I guess, the key, say, weapon or the key argument was, “We are going to do that, but we are first going to learn from the user if this is something that we should keep investing on.” So it doesn’t make any sense to automate a process of something that no user will use. So that’s kind of the argumentation we used.
But going back to your question about how we sliced the work, probably, and this is very normal for any product organization, but we were trying to focus on what was the core operation that the user will do with that product and keeping the scope just confined to that.
Holly Hester-Reilly: That makes sense. So, while you were at that organization you experienced the challenges of scaling up and leading a group that’s scaling up. What are some of the other things that you faced while you were there that helped you grow into this product leadership?
Nacho Bassino: One of the things that was interesting, that was new in this time, I believe that the whole product discovery set of processes and tools and frameworks became more popular. So incorporating that into a organization was, in the first place, very challenging, because it was a growing organization, more structured, and on the other hand, my unit was the one who needed that the most because we were working on launching new products so we needed to do a lot of discovery. And I don’t mean that grown products shouldn’t do that, but they were more established and they were more maybe testing in smaller increments. So I believe that was another challenge, incorporating, and I guess, probably it is the typical challenge, but I will say it anyway, but it’s convincing other areas that we need to talk with users and we need to show them unfinished products to get their inputs. So that was a challenging conversation.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah, I think I hear that a lot. Even today, even as product discovery has grown and spread, we hear that a lot.
What are some of the things that you use to convince other people that you should be showing unfinished products to users?
Nacho Bassino: Actually, it was more starting small and gaining that space. So, for instance, I remember when we had the corporate product it was very challenging because we had a traditional corporate unit that was working one-on-one with customers and we needed to let them introduce us to the customers. So we asked to talk with three customers and they will be with us so they can see that we don’t hurt the relation in any way. And we asked them to introduce us to their strongest relations, so not the biggest customer, not the smallest customer, but the ones with which they have a better relation. So, I would say, they feel more comfortable doing that much control after.
So, first interactions and they understood what we were trying to do and actually they say what we were learning, that was very, very important as well because since they were sitting with us and we had previously discussed some ideas that we were now putting on the table with the customer, they saw the customer reaction and they understood why that conversation was important to decide the future of the product. So I guess that starting with these interactions, with which they feel comfortable, even when it was not the best customer to be talking with, it gave us ability to grow into or to continue with customers more relevant in the future.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. Absolutely. So were there more steps on your journey after that?
Nacho Bassino: Yeah, after that I came to BestDay, which is where I’m working now. It’s a large travel company in Mexico and I became Chief Product Officer. And the challenge here was that the company wanted to transition from a project-oriented organization to a product-oriented organization, so it was a whole new level of challenge. I had to work with a product culture, practices, setting for the first time a product vision, a product strategy. So I really think that changing the team from one set of practices to the other was a very important step and for me it was the first time setting up a product culture.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. And what was the size of that team when you joined?
Nacho Bassino: So the team was around 80, the group in general. The product managers were around 12. And we grew that up to 150 total and product managers were around 20.
Holly Hester-Reilly: So what has that journey been like? It sounds like an interesting one, trying to transition a group of that size.
Nacho Bassino: Yeah it was very interesting from many perspectives because on one side I had to work with non-product managers who wanted to convert into product management, so that was a first challenge. Then I have an organization who was used to, okay, this is kind of the business groups, so to speak, requesting a PMO, a project organization to deliver some projects, so we needed to change how that feature request worked. So it was needed to do some evangelization with the entire organization.
And then, finally, I guess that setting up new processes, or even the product solution that I was mention, required to have these groups interacting in a whole new level. So, product managers having different conversations and learning new skills and that kind of stuff. So that was [inaudible] and I guess that one of the things I did was, the new people I hired, because the organization was growing, paired with the non-product managers to teach them to a new level, and also being very clear about the practices and the processes that we wanted to use. So they knew that they were not there, but what was the point at which they should get to be working at such perspective. So being clear on the expectations.
Holly Hester-Reilly: So what were some of the tactics that you used to set those expectations clearly?
Nacho Bassino: One of the key elements was… I mentioned the product culture, right? The product culture was very important because we had some pillars that we expected them to use in everyday work. So even when the process can grow and mature over time and we don’t want to be dogmatic about process, if you say, “Hey, we want to be customer-centric, we want to be data-driven. We want to be continuously improving.” So they have this understanding and when we have a one-on-one conversation with them you can, based on those expectations, be clear when those expectations were not being met. So, product culture on one side.
And the other thing I was going to mention was the career path. So we set out a set of attributes that we thought all product managers should have and we gave them some idea of levels and the levels were, or we intended them to be, very clear on how we met the different levels. So that was setting expectations clear, and so the second big part of that was having one-on-one conversations and doing a lot of coaching. And of course when you have expectations clear, that one-on-one or that coaching is much easier because you can refer to, “Hey, we all know that we are expecting this, and this is how you didn’t met that expectation.”
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah that’s awesome. I know that can be really hard to do. I’ve worked at organizations that didn’t have that in place yet and organizations that were working on adding it and it’s tough to do well.
Nacho Bassino: Yeah.
Holly Hester-Reilly: To really roll it out clearly and consistently.
And then, while being CPO at BestDay, you’ve also written a book, right?
Nacho Bassino: Yeah. That’s right. Actually it should be launched mid-March, I hope. If everything goes well.
And I guess that probably the book is the result of being asked by many people about product strategy. So I was lucky enough, because I had been working with product strategy for probably six, seven years. I realized that I had to… Also, it’s very different when you know how to do something than when you need to tell someone how to do it, so I consolidated that knowledge from people asking me how to do it. I realized that I was not really good at explaining it, so I worked a lot in putting that together and copying that into something.
And on the other hand, the second reason is that I believe that this lack of knowledge about to do product strategy and why product strategy is important has become very popular for product leaders in the last couple of years. And actually, at first I believed that it was a bias that I had, that I talked with many product leaders not having product strategy but I think that a year ago, probably, Marty Cagan started writing about product leadership and he mentioned the same, that most organizations don’t even set a product strategy. So I think that the problem became more evident. And I believe that there is not much material about how to actually get down to earth with product strategy, so I would try to be very practical with the book and describe how to do it with tools and frameworks to actually get it down to earth.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Awesome. So how long have you been working on the book for? Or how long did that take?
Nacho Bassino: Probably a year. If I count research and these conversations I was mentioning, it’s much more, but the formal work take probably from March last year. And I think that most of it was trying to get from the knowledge to the actual being able to explain to someone. So that’s kind of the hardest part.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. And what’s the book called?
Nacho Bassino: The book’s called Product Direction. Actually, I mentioned, I talk about product strategy a lot, but I believe that one of the… So half of the book is about product strategy and the other half is connecting product strategy to execution. So I call it Product Direction because I cover how to start a product strategy and then how to come up with a strategy road map and OKRs to have, because, I know that Marty was not long ago, so your audience probably know, but to have empowered teams you shouldn’t give the teams what they need to do, you need to give them the challenges or the problems they need to solve, the opportunities you want to pursue. So there’s a balance when you go to execution of the strategy on how much detail, how much context you need to provide, which is a lot, but not being dogmatic or not being specific about the solutions.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah absolutely. It’s so critical to share a lot of context and I think it’s one of the things that, in some organizations, people can really struggle with, is really making sure that that context is shared so people have the info they need to be making the decisions themselves.
Nacho Bassino: Absolutely and I usually say that the problems with strategy, I split them in two. One is more related to the mindset or to the how we do things, because there is a lack of how we do strategy and what strategy looks like when we do it. So there is that lack of material, lack of knowledge about the expected results of a strategy session, and then the other one is more around the implementation of that strategy, in terms, for instance, not having the right diagnosis, so you base your solution… Let’s say that a product leader wants to do product strategy, he sits down with his team and started putting down some strategy, and usually what happens is that we take what we have been discussing in the last month, or the new shiny thing, and we put that in the strategy.
So having the right diagnosis and looking at many sources before deciding is very important and coming up with different insights before deciding which ones to pursue is very important. And that can actually go to the team, in terms of not only saying, “Hey we are pursuing this because this is very important,” but also saying, “We are not pursuing this because we get this information and we see that it is not the best way for us right now,” because of course strategy is also about focusing and selecting.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. I think it’s really fascinating that so many organizations have struggled with having product strategy and I’m curious what you think about how a product manager, who’s maybe more on the front lines level, an independent contributor, can really tell if the company has a strong product strategy or not. What do they look for?
Nacho Bassino: Well I think that, probably, if you are wondering if you have a product strategy, it’s very likely that you don’t have product strategy, because one of the things that I say in the book is that a product strategy that is not communicated is as good for execution as a non-existent product strategy. So one of the key steps of product strategy is actually communication. I believe there are probably numerous ways of sharing the product strategy, but product leadership, when sharing this context, they should make clear which are the what I call strategic pillars, they can be called any way, but these two or three things that are really important that we are pursuing, and the expected goals that we should achieve when pursuing that strategy.
So if you are in a product organization and you are wondering if you have a product strategy and you don’t know these two or three things that the company is focusing on and the two or three goals that we are trying to achieve, you most likely don’t have a product strategy.
Holly Hester-Reilly: And tell me more about the role of data in the way that you recommend teams work?
Nacho Bassino: You mean for product strategy or in general?
Holly Hester-Reilly: Well, I’m curious how it connects to product strategy.
Nacho Bassino: Good.
I guess we can talk about the whole product process from a bigger perspective. So when we talk about product strategy, I think it’s pretty much related to this diagnosis phase. And the problem I see is that many times product teams focus on the product data, because that’s the most readily available information and the one they’re probably playing with the whole days. So we focus too much on that.
And one of the shifts we should have in this diagnosis phase, a more broader view. So we should probably look at our customer research for the last 12 months or the customer feedback through our customer service, if we have customer service unit. We should also look at industry and market trends. And that’s also an interesting side of data, is that you have data that you can benchmark against and you say, “Okay. This is my conversion and how much conversation rate looks like for my industry, for my niche.” So if you can come up with that, you have insights into if you are behind or above market. So that’s one side. I believe it really helps with the diagnosis and you should be getting that information before you decide which insights to pursue.
Then on the discovery phase. So if we’re talking about phases, probably the discovery is next. And during discovery, I think again that we should use data to inform our decisions, but, as with my poker game, we should mix the data we have from our product metrics with wider information. And of course the way to balance that is, what’s happening and why it’s happening. That’s what the qualitative information can provide.
And then we go into execution, I guess, and everything related to product optimization, like doing small [A/B testing] or into small improvements. I tend to be much more data-oriented in that side.
Holly Hester-Reilly: And how to do you tend to use data when it comes to measuring outcomes? Tell us a little more about what that looks like.
Nacho Bassino: Okay. I guess that, if we look again at the whole product organization process, you start putting in place your strategy, your strategy has annual goals or bigger goals. Then we work with OKRs. So OKRs, as I put in the book, we come up with a strategy but then you need to break that down into problems that you will work on each quarter and that quarter has expected outcomes, if you solve or successfully address those opportunities. So that’s how I link the day-to-day execution, I would say, to the goals in the strategy and that’s the role, I guess, that data plays in measuring those outcomes.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. Awesome.
While you were going about all these steps of your journey, what were your key resources for learning more and figuring out how to solve the problems you faced.
Nacho Bassino: That’s a good question. And probably this is related to the career growth as well. When I started, I started learning a lot about the execution side of things. So you learn from how to write a user story to how to measure a product and I guess that, in that sense, most of the information I had available, probably 10 or 12 years ago was more relationship, peer-to-peer, and learning from others.
As I grew, and as the product community grew, more information became available, in terms of books and courses. So what I do today is that I follow the key thought-leaders in our space, and most of them have two things. One is a lot of public material available, like docs, and I mentioned about Marty Cagan, Petra Wille, and [Teresa Torres] and [Jeff Bayden], many, many thought-leaders that I admire, and they have a lot of free information available. I think that sites like Mind the Product, with Product Time, which I organize here in Cancun, they have a lot of free material available that’s awesome.
And then if you want to go a step farther, most of them have workshops or trainings that you can pursue to really deep dive into one practice. And I think that one thing that is important is, and this is kind of what I did and what I suggest to all my colleagues, is that when you are struggling with something try to find a coach, that doesn’t need to be in your organization, but someone who has experience with that field of product management and can help you, not only with the theory, but actually how you apply it to your own job.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. I’m glad that you mention that because that is something that is really helpful for people, especially if they are a leader in their organization and so they don’t have a product peer who’s at the same level as them. It can be really helpful to have a coach to talk through things with.
Nacho Bassino: Yeah absolutely. I think that everyone says that products are normally a lonely position, I think that I agree with that. And the thing is that they have not all been lonely, but you might have a lot of colleagues but they probably don’t have that product experience that you need, so that’s why I think that. And again, it can be different than a formal coach, it can be peer-to-peer networking and bouncing ideas with others.
Holly Hester-Reilly: How would you describe the state of the product management practice in Mexico and in Latin America?
Nacho Bassino: It’s interesting. I will start with Latin America. I believe that it’s not equally distributed but there is some countries that, due to technology startups or technology movement in general, have advanced a bit more. Brazil, Argentina. A bit in Colombia, a bit in Chile. So, in general I would say it’s probably five years behind the States or Europe, in terms of how advanced the practice is. And then you have also big corporations like Despegar, like Mercado Libre, which have very large product groups, so they set the tone and many product managers try to work there because they have a more advanced practice.
In Mexico in particular, I found it was very hard for me to hire product managers from Mexico, one of the things, I believe, is hurting the product community is that there is a lot of software development being outsourced from the United States. So you find a lot of software developers working for product organizations that are in the United States. So, I guess that from a job market perspective many Mexicans tend to be software developers because there are a lot of available positions and it’s huge in terms of software development. There are very big software factories, actually. But in terms of product positions, the [inaudible] position is not as well developed as, probably, in other countries in Latin America and also there is this lack of product positions because they work for other countries.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That makes sense. Are there any topics that we didn’t cover that you’d really like to talk about?
Nacho Bassino: I think we covered strategy communication, but one thing that we didn’t go through… I keep wondering about the question you said about if someone wonders if they have a product strategy. So one thing that is important is the repetition, how we use our product strategy to communicate in as a many places as we can. So I like to mention that the role of the product leadership is probably a lot of doing this coaching and providing this context, and the context, whether you like it or not requires a lot of repetition. So I kept wondering about that question that you mentioned. So one of the things that I do, and I recommend everyone doing this, is starting, for instance, every OKR review with a two-minute talk about what is our strategy, what we are pursuing here. So not only defining it, but also keeping that present is very important for providing the teams with that context and that clarity of our purpose, of our goals, and actually having that reflected in the execution and your outcomes.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Yeah. That’s an extremely good point. I think a lot of us forget while we’re practicing, as the product’s person, we spend so much time with the strategy, with the goals and the initiatives and the things we’re measuring. Sometimes we forget that the other people on the team don’t live in it as much as we do and that we need to just review something, that like, “Yes, we talked about this last month. Let’s just talk about it again. And then we’ll do it again next month.” You know? That’s a really good point.
Nacho Bassino: And what’s interesting that, as we discussed, I’ve been part of organizations that grew a lot, in scale, and one of the things that became a challenge that I didn’t mention was dependencies. So, in my first experiences, when I didn’t work with a lot of product strategy, dependencies are very, very messy because you need to discuss… it kind of feels like the one who shouts louder gets the slops in the [crosstalk]. But when you have a strategy and you communicate the strategy, instead of having every dependency being [inaudible] to product leadership, teams start agreeing much more and you can work less by giving more context and letting the teams have these kind of discussions.
Holly Hester-Reilly: You’re right and it’s really beautiful when that happens, right?
Nacho Bassino: Absolutely.
Holly Hester-Reilly: When people start being able to make decisions based on, well, “Does this move forward? The thing that I know is our top priority?” And that’s one of the ways that I tell people to evaluate whether they have the right materials and communication for their teams, is what happens when a team has to make a decision? Does the team get to make a decision quickly because they all know, and they’re just comparing, well, “Which one of these will do this more?” Or is it back and forth, “Maybe this. Maybe that. Maybe this. Maybe that.” Really well-defined strategy and good principles can really cut down how long it takes to make decisions, which is great.
Nacho Bassino: Absolutely.
Holly Hester-Reilly: You’ve mentioned people coming to you and asking you questions. Is that because you’re really active in the community where you are? Or how do you meet other products people in Latin America?
Nacho Bassino: Actually we talk about my corporate job a lot, but actually I am very passionate about Product Time. Probably for the last five or six years I try to be very active in the community, so I have been running Product Time in Buenos Aires and now in Cancun for the last five years. Then I also write a lot in Medium, in particular. It’s where I am writing now. And I also like to do some talks or share information in whatever form I can. I actually mentor a few product managers, that’s more a kind of one-to-one relation, but in a broader sense I am very active in LinkedIn, or in any way they want to contact me, and try to be as friendly as possible and share information, because believe, as I say, we need to keep pushing the discipline farther, so I am glad to help when I can.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Awesome. So if you had just one thing to share with the people who come to you asking you for guidance, what is your key lesson that you want them to know?
Nacho Bassino: I will say that product management in general is something that you mostly learn on the field. So if you are a product manager, look for others to help you, and if you are a product leader, make sure that you are doing this one-on-one and coaching your team, because that’s the most relevant way they will learn.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Absolutely. Awesome. Well this has been a pleasure. Where can people find you if they want to follow you and learn more?
Nacho Bassino: So I have a site called Lean Experimentation, that’s kind of my blog, but I’m very actively in LinkedIn and Medium, so they can find me there.
Holly Hester-Reilly: Awesome. All right, well thank you so much for your time today Nacho, it’s been a pleasure.
Nacho Bassino: I really enjoyed it, Holly, thank you.
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Also published on Medium.