November 28

Leadership hack – what does a Chief Product Officer do?

In this post, I want to share my thoughts on what a Chief Product Officer/Head of Product does.  Recently I moderated a ScaleUp Heros panel discussion in the role of  Head of Product (you can find it on LinkedIn, Medium and  Facebook).  The host Ryan Foland and exceptional panellists John Connolly, Courtney Wylie and Ben Kim explored product leadership ship in our own companies.

For me, there are four roles for the Chief Product Officer.

  • Head of Products – make sure the company builds experiences that delight customers, add revenue and are hard to copy
    • Work with the CEO and the rest of the leadership team to set the strategic direction and context for the company
    • Help product leaders break down company vision and goals into product vision, OKRs and metrics
    • Understanding the unit economics of all products and how further investment will achieve company goals
    • Help product leaders make investment decisions (help teams solve the right problems)
    • Create new teams to solve new problems, and stop investment/ideas when needed
    • Build excitement, internally and externally, about the company’s vision, values, people and products
  • Head of product teams – make product teams lives better and easier
    • People – hire and retain the right people to build teams with the right skills, capabilities and experience
    • Technology – ensure that product teams can work as independently and productively as possible
    • Process – reduce process to a minimum.  Use tools, not rules and have clear principles not detailed idiots guides (only idiots need ideots guides)
    • Set the mindset/culture:
      • courage to disagree to avoid groupthink and authoritarianism
      • prioritise value, build what is urgent and important
      • adopting a growth-mindset, so that everyone can improve
      • respecting each other and the wider business, to reduce friction
      • commitment
      • openness about problems and issues, so delay is can be identified early, and if possible fixed
  • Head of customer insight – align the company on how customers and industry are changing
    • With marketing, understand the customers (segments, needs, wants, jobs to be done, behaviours and how they are changing)
    • Provide strategic research (customers, channels, competitors)
    • Enable teams to research and regularly interact with customers and test new and existing features
  • Most senior product person – lead product chapter to help product people develop and progress
    • What good looks like (role model)
    • Set clear expectations for each role, training, and a path for progression
    • Line-manage, coach and mentor all product leaders
    • Get to a point where chapters self-sustaining


I hope sharing my thoughts provides a new perspective.  If you have any ideas or feedback, please leave a comment or reach out to me.