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Competence-led product company to enable transformation

Competence-led product company to enable transformation

A chat with KONE’s new Head of Product Management Tiina Nieminen

Tiina is a product management professional, who joined KONE in December 2020 as Head of Product Management in our Services and Solutions department, after being in the high-tech startup world at companies like Varjo, an advanced virtual and mixed reality device company. Her experience from both worlds – at tech giants like Nokia and Microsoft, and in high-tech – have given her the stripes to help transform an entire industry and lead a large-scale competence-led product company.

Read the first part of her blog to learn how digital and physical will help enable people flow.

Below, Tiina shares what the role of a competence-led organization has on KONE’s future, and what it means for the company’s product competence community.

From product-led organization to competence-led organization

One reason I was sold on KONE was the shift from a product organization setup to a competence-led organization to deliver product excellence. I knew this would be a fruitful playground to work in; bringing KONE’s whole product management team together to share knowledge, best practices, and learn from one another.

A competence-led organization breaks the form of a traditional organization centered around specific products or services, and instead, forms chapters or ‘home’ teams around specific competence areas. Chapters are also a way of ensuring consistent ways of working and having standard tools and methods. You can think of them as being responsible for the ‘how’ part, whereas tribes are responsible for the ‘what part’.

Competence-led organizations are about amping up your skills, sharing best practices, learning from people dealing with similar issues, growing and being stronger together. It also allows for further rotation between products, accelerates learning of individuals, and diversifies perspectives within product teams, creating more well rounded solutions for our customers.

Competence-led organizations in practice

Companies like Spotify have moved to a competence-led organization model. Tech professionals and employees have received it well, not to mention the added value it brings to the company and products. Now we are also moving towards a modern tech organization setup, and we’ll be the first in our industry to make this change happen. Not an easy feat!

In practice, this means facilitating innovation culture at KONE, breaking silos, and building bridges to other teams. For example, if you work as a Product Owner (PO) at KONE, you are a part of the PO competence team, and you have the support of your PO peer group. The idea is that we are better together. You are no longer alone, but can have a support network for your own expertise area and sparring partners.

At KONE, we have tribes that are cross functional end-to-end solutions teams. Tribes are our execution model and are often also called the value-creation entities, focusing on delivering business outcomes and customer value, for example, our KONE 24/7 Connected Services tribe. When it comes to competences at KONE, “product”, for example, is a competence domain, similar to engineering. Product people can work in, for example, the 24/7 tribe as their day job, but they “belong to” their competence domain. The tribe consists of different competence domains working on a specific solution.

On an individual level, a competence-led organization better equips building competence-based professional development plans and ensures more job rotation, as well as learning from peers. Diverse career paths are available, which helps professionals broaden their perspectives and use their skills in different areas.

How competence-led organizations boost exponential value creation

Creating added value for our customers is the key for me, and this is aligned with the KONE Technology & Innovation Unit’s mission. We make products, which our customers want to buy. A lot of trade-offs need to be made. When you have the willingness and ability to really understand your customer and their needs, you will be able to create more value.

For us at KONE, this means building up our own customer and market intelligence, which is a core competence of product management. This means we have to have our eyes and ears peeled on the market for insights. We need to constantly question ourselves. Are we doing the right things? What are the disruptors in the market? Can we disrupt it?

We need to be able to understand and take the impulses coming from the global level and mirror them in our own product work. It’s also about breaking down the big problems into smaller pieces, with the vision clearly in our mind, but simultaneously grabbing the low-hanging fruits. Small steps matter when you have a clear vision and you are aware of the trends.

What do competence communities look like at KONE?

As a Competence Lead, my role is to develop our people. My challenge is to solve how we enable people to perform and how we can take KONE to the next level. In Product Management, how we communicate is essential. I believe that this change to a competence-led organization also enables better career paths and thus has a role in helping KONE succeed, which in turn helps us grow and attract potential employees.

We have set up forums such as the Global Tech Forum to share knowledge across our tech team, and will be kicking off the product and other competence forums later in 2021. They will focus on specific topics, where we can invite external and internal speakers to share learnings. It’s an opportunity for people to interact across locations and online. We will have regular joint activities on a quarterly basis and individuals can co-create the competence community activities – it is not just leadership driven. The competence organization is the enabler and shares the ways of working, aiming toward fewer silos.

For competence communities to succeed you need:

  • open communication and trust
  • diverse people coming together to unite their collective best practices and to create their way of working
  • an entrepreneurial attitude, where doing iterations and learning fast will help you succeed sooner
  • well thought-out processes and facilitated job rotation to maximize the growth of your collective competence intelligence

We aim to be digital and physical by nature, and believe that competence communities are how we will get there. With the product competence community, we can collectively build up our different competence areas such as product strategy and competitor intelligence to push our collective intelligence into solving problems that matter on a global scale. Now, we are on the journey towards organizing this way. We’re not there yet, but we welcome people onboard who share similar views and want to be a part of this organization.

Join Tiina’s product team at KONE to help transform an entire industry’s product management practices! Learn more about the KONE Technology and Innovation team and their motivations.

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