Is Delivery Management part of the Product Trio?

updated on 07 June 2024

Product organisations are experiencing an ongoing shift away from siloed hand offs between product managers, designers, and engineers. Instead, the concept of a "Product Trio" calls for these three core capabilities to work collaboratively from beginning to end on building successful products.

But what role, if any, does Delivery Management play in this cross-functional trio approach? Does Delivery Management have a place in the Product Trio?

The Missing Enablement Piece

At its core, Delivery Management is about enabling high-performing teams to effectively deliver value to customers. Its three key aspects - removing impediments, facilitating collaboration, and coaching teams - are focussed on increasing team effectiveness by optimising flow, engagement, and continuous improvement.

While the Product Trio works together on defining the "what" and "why" of the product, you could argue that Delivery Management provides a foundation for "how" that trio operates cohesively as part of a highly effective product team.

By adopting the discipline of Delivery Management, the Product Trio should benefit from:

• Streamlined feedback loops supported by well defined processes

• Reduced cognitive load as a result of effective ways of working

• An environment conducive to flow states enabled by psychological safety

In this light, Delivery Management could be viewed as a force-multiplier that unlocks the Product Trio's full potential as a leadership capability driven by their shared mission.

An Alternative Trio

In the book Sooner Safer Happier by Jonathan Smart, an alternative leadership trio is described. The Value Outcome Lead, Architecture Outcome Lead, and Team Outcome Lead are accountable for delivering business value, ensuring technical excellence, and enabling high-performing teams respectively. The three key roles in this leadership triumvirate are described as being effective at different levels within the organisation, not purely at the team level, working in different enablement and leadership capacities within the organisational structure.


But where exactly does Delivery Management fit in this model? Is it solely the purview of the designated Team Outcome Lead role? Or can Delivery Management practices be owned and applied more fluidly across the product team or even the entire organisation?

At first glance, Delivery Management aligns neatly with the Team Outcome Lead accountability in Smart's model. The core tenets of Delivery Management - removing impediments, facilitating team collaboration, and coaching around new approaches - map directly to "optimising for resilience, flow, safety, and engagement" which is the Team Outcome Lead's mandate.

Having a dedicated person in this role provides focussed accountability for cultivating a high-performance culture and empowering the team's self-organisation. With their servant leadership approach, a Delivery Management practitioner enables the team to deliver value effectively while a Product Manager and Tech Lead or Architect can lead on value and technology respectively.

How might this map to our original Product Trio? One proposal would involve taking this concept further by formalising a fourth accountability - a "Creative Outcome Lead" - to complement the existing trio. This role could be the standard-bearer for design excellence and ensuring a superb user experience.

In a potential "Product Quartet" model, each individual applies Delivery Management practices to unlock their respective sphere of influence: value, technical excellence, team empowerment, and design artistry. The quartet collectively owns the overall value delivery process alongside the other members of the team.

Value Delivery as a Distributed Capability

Not in favour of the Product Quartet? Well, you could make the case that limiting Delivery Management to a single, dedicated role would be counter to the Product Trio's ethos of collective ownership that influences the leadership of the entire team.

Instead of siloing Delivery Management responsibilities in yet another specialist, the principles of removing impediments, facilitating collaboration, and coaching teams could be adopted as a distributed mindset across the entire trio.

The Product Manager could apply Delivery Management to align stakeholders and eliminate organisational blockers. The Design Lead could facilitate collaborative team sessions to refine the product and explore user feedback. And the Engineering Lead could coach modern technical practices that reduce friction.

In this model, Delivery Management becomes a collaborative capability that the Product Trio collectively leans on - not the domain of any single person. It becomes core to how they work as a trio rather than an auxiliary role. Albeit, this approach carries additional cognitive load for the team.

The Right Fit for Your Context

Fundamentally, the Product Trio, Leadership Triumvirate, and Delivery Management are all geared towards the same outcome: empowering teams to deliver outstanding products and experiences to customers. How these two concepts intersect may vary based on an organisation’s specific structure, processes, and culture.

What matters most is that the core delivery enablers of leadership alignment, collaborative ways of working, technical excellence, and customer empathy are being actively enabled - whether through specialist roles or a shared team mindset.

The rise of the Product Trio shines a light on the increasing value organisations place on end-to-end ownership, fast flow, and superb user experiences. Delivery Management, when properly integrated, can provide a crucial boost in realising that trifecta of ambitions.


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