Davids Vs Covid 7: Managing Product Teams During Covid-19

VP of Product Management at Zomato, an avid tweeter, and an alumnus of BITS Pilani, Rahul Ganjoo has over 15 years of experience in the tech world from leading products at Snapdeal, to being a part of the tech team at Twitter in San Francisco. In continuation with our series ‘Davids Vs. Covid’, Rahul Ganjoo took time out from his busy schedule to answer questions from both Founders and Product Leaders (of our portfolio cos.).

With the virus spreading like wildfire and as we take shelter in our homes, teams are slowly settling into not only new working environments but adjusting to new ways of working, communicating and collaborating, that only a few may be accustomed to. Many of us have lost track of time, lost track of days – blurring the lines between weekday and weekend. 

As we set into week four (or five?) of working from home, a uniting element, a thread in the web that ties us together is the fact that most of us don’t have a playbook on how to navigate and prepare for these mercurial times. 

In conversation with founders and CPOs, Rahul pulls out a few chapters from his playbook and urges product custodians to consider these in a post-Covid world.

Transparency and Documentation

Your company is trying to adapt to the current times – – is there a project in the pipeline that needs to be fast-tracked, has your product release cycle been expedited to meet current market demand, how can you innovate your product to make it relevant in the current climate?

Answering these questions in a fast-paced (and volatile) environment with several moving parts — on any other day, you can imagine yourself in a conference room, the aroma of whiteboard markers and coffee fills the air, the energy in the room keeps you on your toes during the brainstorming session, ideas click as your members from your product team finish each other’s sentences.

The reality though is that you’re most likely alone in your room or the area of a shared space that you’ve designated as your makeshift workspace. There is now a step-by-step process introduced, replacing the scene above.

  • Structure your thoughts on a shared document with your team
  • Highlight your key points with a clear offering / topic statement
  • Only then schedule a call once you’ve checked your team’s availability
  • Send minutes post each call
  • Most importantly, build a process that you can adopt into a habit, one that you follow in the long run. 

Rahul lists out the range of tools keeping communication running smoothly for the team – Asana / Google Docs / Zoom / Figma / DingTalk. His top priority to get his team on track is to make extra efforts for clear documentation of their work, and adopting methods and mindset for open and transparent communication. Although he realizes these new practices are slowing them down, he believes building the muscle memory to capture their thought process will allow for clear context when they have to shift gears at high speeds.

If his team can successfully master this, they can effectively communicate and collaborate moving forward.

Communicate and Collaborate

If there was ever a time for over-communication, this is it — as a team leader, over-communicate your goals; and as a team member, over-communicate your progress. Keep sharing with your team and don’t worry about whether your next statement is relevant to all in group / channel ‘x’ because this is a time for teams to be connected to each other across the org (and across all departments). As a team leader, Rahul suggests implementing a holistic approach to communication for the foreseeable future – start the day together on a zoom call and keep reassuring and reinforcing that these are practices that enable for smoother and more effective collaboration in remote times.

Hobby Groups and Engagement

With the social aspect of life currently paused, we must remember that these aren’t the normal circumstances under which we would work from home. For most, there’s no stepping out for exercising or extracurricular activities, social gatherings or solo rituals that reboot you for the next day. 

Team leaders and companies can play a role in building hobby groups for their teams – music, trivia, games – an opportunity to not only escape the humdrum of current limitations but also for individuals to engage with one another and feel like they are part of a team. 

As an essential pillar of your ecosystem, your team’s wellbeing needs to be filtered through an empathetic lens. Send your teams surveys to understand how they are feeling about the situation, set office hours and have town halls – surveys to gage individualized professional and personal concerns, and town halls to observe group dynamics and discern patterns of questions as well as address common concerns. 

In a time of uncertainty, keep your team in the loop about the now and the future – along with motivation, reassurance and a clear purpose in order to lead your troops to the battlefield. As Rahul mentions in one of his tweets, WFH can be a blessing in disguise for productivity – and his tech team is determined to make lemonade from this lemon.