Product Ops Is All the Rage These Days

It’s no secret, based on the number of times I quote them on this blog or reference them in professional conversations, that Marty Cagan and John Cutler are my two favorite product thinkers today. I already posted about Cagan’s hot take on product ops, and he’s posted a follow up already. Now I’ve found Cutler talking about it in his most recent newsletter:

Someone good at “Ops” will consider emergence, constraints (real or perceived), the nature of complex adaptive systems, human psychology, human factors, ergonomics, and safety science. Someone less experienced will take a more deterministic, centralized, process-centric view. Good at Ops knows the best option is often to do nothing and observe. They think in safe-to-fail experiments, service design, and the needs of the humans in the system. Less Experience at Ops makes everything a process-centric (or technology-centric) project with a beginning, middle, and end.

To make matters even harder, companies may have views like:

  • Developers shouldn’t interact with customers
  • We need to buffer the teams
  • We need process conformance across our teams
  • “In our environment, we can’t have independent teams”

His list continues, but these are the top four I’ve experienced in the organizations I’ve been a part of. They all come from a place of good but under-informed intentions, or a fear that the time required to successfully get developers closer to customers, or for them to define their own process, is somehow wasted time. Even if the organization doesn’t necessarily have the old-school “cost center” mentality towards their engineering teams, they still might panic at the thought of their very expensive developer sitting in on a customer interview instead of typing out code.