The Case for Empowered Product Teams

Why you should let your teams figure out what to build

The benefits of empowered product teams

Empowered teams have benefits over delivery or feature teams in terms of motivation, customer centricity, velocity, and innovation. Let’s look at these benefits in detail.


There are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is for example monetary compensation. Intrinsic motivation is driven more by the needs and desires of each person. In general, tapping into intrinsic motivation will lead to higher, more sustainable performance and team morale — after all, if you are intrinsically motivated by the work you do, it is because it is aligned with what you want and need.


Empowered product teams are tasked with achieving outcomes, solving customer problems in ways that serve the business. Their objectives revolve directly around the customer. Feature and delivery teams are tasked with building features that stakeholders have prioritized. Their primary concern, then, is making those stakeholders happy, not the customers.


Product discovery and development work should always be iterative. Each iteration leads to decision points — do we pursue a given path further, which of several options do we pick, have we uncovered information that means we should change course, etc.


Technology-enabled companies create value by solving customer problems in ways that serve the business, leveraging technology. Innovation happens when new insights and approaches are discovered in one or multiple of these areas (technology, understanding of the customer problem, business model).

Why organizations stick with command and control

Given all the benefits of empowered teams outlined above, why do so many organizations stick with non-empowered teams? The first reason is of course inertia. Many organizations are used to a “command and control” style of management in which leaders decide and teams execute. The feature and delivery team model fits well with this model. Organizational inertia, sticking with the status quo, is of course a powerful force, but given the advantages of empowered product teams, should not be used as an excuse — there are good reasons to overcome this inertia.

When non-empowered teams are right

Are non-empowered teams always the wrong choice, then? Not necessarily. As always in product development, there are trade-offs. Here are some situations in which I can see non-empowered teams being the “correct” choice, at least for the time.



Head of Product at RevenueCat; previously at 8fit, Yammer, BCG.

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