Function Over Form: The ‘Rightway’ for Healthcare Management
Piece by piece, level by level, structuring management roles is like a game of Jenga in that it requires logic, forethought and patience. It’s a balancing act, and some players are really skilled in identifying which single piece to move next, focusing on one operation at a time. These are your functional managers. Other players — your general managers — prefer to oversee the structure as a whole, offering their expertise to advise on what moves might be better than others.
While there’s no one managerial approach that makes sense for every organization, choosing the right architecture is up to the discretion of those who understand their products and services best.
So what’s the right way for Rightway’s managers?
The company’s VP of product, Audrey Warren, follows a functional management structure to benefit the overlap between the two products they provide. While this approach offers opportunities for her teams to flourish in a more creative, autonomous manner, it also presents an overarching challenge: navigating problems and the decisions needed to resolve them.
“It’s harder to get started when you have the freedom to work on any problem within the business,” she explained.
What needed to come next for the product team was a visual solution to merge the gaps between autonomy, focus and prioritization.
Built In NYC met with Warren to learn about the functional structure she uses to lead her team and both the disadvantages and professional growth opportunities that come with it.
Would you say that your product organization follows a functional structure, or more of a “general manager” model?
At Rightway, our two main business lines — care navigation and pharmacy benefits management — complement one another. Currently, we sell them both as stand-alone solutions, but we keep discovering ways that the two products provide more value combined than on their own. For that reason, we chose the functional model for our product and engineering teams to work across all products and technology stacks.
We’re still relatively early in the game, so our aim is to find and meet the highest value opportunities for the business. That might mean refining an existing product, but it might also mean discovering and pursuing a new product opportunity. In our current functional structure, we foster an environment that allows for a lot of creativity and autonomy.
What are the potential drawbacks of structuring your product organization in this way, and how do you mitigate them?
It’s harder to get started when you have the freedom to work on any problem within the business. With this approach, you have to get disciplined about the way you define the problem space and how you make prioritization decisions. We recently went through a week-long planning workshop and split our time diving deep into each of the business lines. We assembled cross-functional groups of internal experts to help us define the problem space and better understand our unique customer and member needs. From there, we were able to step back and identify where we had opportunities that cross product boundaries and determine which were multipliers. This exercise gave us the beginning of an opportunity map that we’ll work with next year to prioritize product discovery research, validation and delivery.
You have to get disciplined about the way you define the problem space and how you make prioritization decisions.”
How does your product organization structure set individual engineers and other contributors up for career growth over the long term?
I personally think startups are the best environment for professional development, and I put the career growth of my team members at the top of my goals as a product leader. I am equally as proud of the influence I’ve had on the careers of people whom I’ve worked with as I am of the technology products I’ve launched.
Recently, we spent a lot of time as a team developing a formal career ladder and defining competencies for each level. This new structure allows for deeper conversations about what someone will need to focus on specifically to get to the next level in their career. I try to focus my team development conversations on how the work that someone is doing today will help them develop their resume for future jobs in their career.