Organization by Initiative - Deepstash

Organization by Initiative

Companies tend to have strategic initiatives that emerge from annual planning, so a common organizational structure is to align product and engineering around those initiatives. The initiative structure allows PM’s and engineers to flex between innovation, growth, scaling, etc. as needed to support the ultimate outcome for the business. This requires product folks to be more agile in their planning and in the skill sets they are leveraging.

This organizational structure tends to be the least stable because initiatives change frequently or at least on an annual basis.

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A common organization structure is to separate teams based on the type of work they are doing:t

  • the innovation pillar working on new products.
  • the core pillar trying to strengthen the core product with additional features and maintaining the core.
  • the growth pillar trying to grow overall usage of the current product.
  • the platform pillar working on internal features that support other product and engineering teams to allow them to scale.

The organizational structures can be quite stable.

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If a product has different value propositions, a common structure is to separate product teams by those different value props. For example, at Pinterest, the value props were Discover, Save, and Do, and had different product pillars for each of those value props. This makes it easy to align OKRs or goals to the value you’re trying to provide your users.

If not handled correctly, this structure can lead to an under-investment in important maintenance, scaling, or growth work as the desire is always for new features that aid in delivering this value prop.

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The most important rule of product organizational structures is that they should closely mirror the partner functions. So engineering, product management, and design should tend to have structures that match each other whenever possible.

Product teams tend to work best when aligned with how engineering, design, and other partner functions are structured, so there are 1:1 relationships between leadership roles in those functions.

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If a product has different types of customers, a common structure is to separate product teams by the customers they build for:

  • in marketplaces that have supply and demand teams, or
  • In subscription companies that have self-serve and enterprise, or free customers and paid customers.

There can be issues with this model as great products are things that benefit both supply and demand, or free and paid users. It’s hard to build a great product if you only know one side well.

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