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The Problem

How to support a happy and productive workforce and culture?  How to upskill employees?  

The Solution

A product innovation lab creates an environment of shared culture, tools, practices, and resources.  While most of the product development teams may report to separate areas of responsibilities, some lab resources need to be dedicated to the lab and shared by the teams.  A well-run lab contains a significant presence of shared resources, around 15-20% of the total permanent headcount of a lab.  I will cover the organizational aspects of product innovation labs separately.

Shared lab resources are practice captains, lab managers, engagement specialists, and SMEs

Common responsibilities: 

  • upskilling development teams by pairing (short/long term)

  • provide training opportunities for the lab and the enterprise as a whole, such as lead lunch & learns, hold instructor-led classes, and develop e-learning materials for self-paced learning

  • facilitate workshops 

  • promote the new way of working outside of the labs

  • support and evolve core practices, values, behaviors of the operating model and form a lean innovation culture

  • prevent conflicts

  • represent labs in the enterprise and industry events

Role-based responsibilities: 

Practice captain (senior practitioners)

  • provides thought leadership in one of the three functions of "balanced teams": product, design, and software engineering

  • hosts functional meetups in each of the three functions

  • pairs with teams for short or long duration

  • helps to start new teams and fight fires

  • takes part in interviewing for open positions


Lab manager

  • is the main point of contact for a lab location

  • is a member of a product portfolio board(s) 

  • could come from any of the three functions


Engagement specialist ("happiness guru")

  • helps new resource to on-boarding and settle in

  • advocates for employee well-being and engagement

  • is the first point of contact for issues with hardware, facilities, or supplies

  • forms internal community

  • organizes events


Shared SME

  • assists teams in specific areas

  • ideally is physically located in a lab

  • may rotate in and out of the lab for a "tour of duty"

  • examples: corporate lawyer, business SME, database administrator, security engineer, etc

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