Product Management Ideas - Part 2 [Ever-Growing Free PM Book]

Disclaimer. These ideas are not mine. A lot of great people share their thoughts about different aspects of product management. I’m gathering the ones I find the most useful.

  1. Success and MVP
  2. Product Leadership
  3. Product Management is Hard
  4. The Three Horizons model
  5. 6 week planning cycles
  6. BA role in product development
  7. That Which is Urgent is Not Always Important
  8. How to run a product/market fit survey
  9. The 3 types: heart, will and head
  10. Launch to sell – leverage sales enablement to maximize product launches

11. Success and MVP

Is MVP Dead?

Speed and customer feedback are core principles of MVP. MVP is more than a test or mockup but is less than a mature “feature complete” product. The very nature of MVP is to get feedback and then pivot based on new knowledge learned from the release. This forces teams to think in small steps; to create a big vision, but test that vision with incremental MVP.

Learning is a key to MVP

New products are hard at best and MVP’s biggest challenge is in the tension to deliver something of value and doing it quickly. For companies who want to quickly find a market need, MVP is a proven concept. Well-funded and established firms may struggle most with MVP because of the perceived risk. For these organizations creating prototypes and quick validation tests can minimize risk exposure if done quickly. The challenge of MVP lies in its execution and managing of expectations around an innovative idea.

12. Product Leadership

It is time to talk about Product Leadership

Product Management is not about being an expert in UX, Business or Technology, is about letting experts in those fields do their best and facilitate their communication.

Product management is crossfunctional

Product Managers might, and should, understand about those topics. What happens is that, if a product manager spends his/her time coding, for instance, s/he is probably not dealing well with the key activities of the product manager: Helping the team overcome its roadblocks; Setting, communicating and updating product vision; Creating product strategy; Aligning product vision with the company’s vision; Gaining buy-in from executive level.

Do you know which is the most important asset for all those things that Product Management deals with? The answer is: People! It does not matter whether it is your team or other people from your organisation, product managers must put people in the first place. If a product manager helps the team develop itself, the experts of the team will do their best and build a great product.

If the product manager is able to align the product vision and strategy to the needs of the company, the product (and the team) will therefore be seen as essential for achieving great organisational results. Product feedback from customer and market-fit can also help to shape the vision of the company.

Product Leadership is thus sadly fated to fail if not supported by all levels of an organisation; it cannot rely only on Product Managers. Product Managers can set inspiring vision for their products, but the company’s vision must also be inspiring, supportive to the product level and carefully thought by executive leadership. The first will not be effective without the latter.

The strategy of the company can also led to the birth of new products with a first direction, which will be later detailed by product leaders. But the birth of a new product or business unit can only be justified if thought to achieve product leadership, otherwise there is no product manager that will be able to develop a thriving product.

13. Product Management is Hard

Why do we Forget That Product Management is a Tough Career?

As product managers we could be talking to the legal team about our customers’ personal information one moment, and to engineers about whether we should use Native or React Native to build our app the next. We need to work with the finance team to understand the implications of PCI compliance, we need to help the commercial team to pitch to potential partners, we need to collaborate with the user research team to craft insightful investigations, we need to explore with the design team how our product can solve customer pains, we need to manage the expectations of CXOs, and we need to work with the people team to ensure our recruitment process attracts product managers from diverse backgrounds.

Product managers are not experts in all these areas. Yet we are expected to engage in these conversations as though we are. We are generalists surrounded by specialists. This can be daunting. We need to know enough details to guide the discussion, ask the right questions, and help the group to reach a conclusion. Juggling all these conversations can feel like you’re continuously shifting gear in a tumult of noise. And that’s before you’ve started speaking to customers, analysing product data, understanding your market, defining your product vision and roadmap, or even managing other product managers.

Rather than providing solutions, a large part of product management is spending time in understanding the problem – probing it from different angles, breaking it down to expose the underlying problems and identify the fundamental assumptions. Then you must explore all these areas with your engineers, designers, and growth managers, form hypotheses and test them, and build up potential solutions as a team. People mistakenly get the impression that becoming a product manager is the only way to influence the product, but this just means you’re not including everyone’s strengths and expertise enough during the product discovery stage.

As a product manager, you are part psychologist, scientist, and artist – and the master of none of these.

14. The Three Horizons model

3 Titles; 3 Horizons

3 horizons model.png

Successful companies plan across three horizons: immediate (Horizon 1), near-term (Horizon 2), and long-term (Horizon 3). Horizon 1 is optimized for profit; Horizon 2 is optimized for growth (revenue and market share); and Horizon 3 is optimized for learning, usually the exploration of new technologies, delivery methods, and markets.

Horizon 1 products require a manager with a primary focus on the financials. These products are in maintenance mode—which means no new features—which drives the sales and development teams crazy. They want to add a feature here and there to help close more deals or update the architecture. But if the product is Horizon 1, it should be maintained, not extended.

The Horizon 2 manager considers key new product features that generate new buyers and more renewals; he or she will explore promotional campaigns that attract new buyers into the funnel. The focus is more about scaling the business; getting more clients. You want to promote the new stuff, so your sales teams can generate new revenues.

The Horizon 3 manager focuses on innovation and technology. They research problems with markets that are either under-served or over-served by existing vendors. They turn products into services and services into products.

15. 6 week planning cycles

Why roadmaps are a waste of time

So we move to a short term roadmap of 6 weeks — this is very useful. Why 6 weeks? It’s roughly 4 weeks of hardcore work and about a week either side to get things tidy and reflect, roughly speaking. This is also a time period that people can usually estimate. You’re really asking, can this be done in 4 weeks — give or take?

Then, once the release is underway, you are planning & setting up the next release.

During each 6 week release, you want to be doing 2 sorts of activities.

  1. Discovery
  2. Delivery

6 week planning cycles

The output of delivery is software. The output of discovery is learning. Learning what to build is often more important than building stuff. After all, what good is shipping software if you’re not doing it with an adequate education, and you miss the outcomes you’re aiming for.

The idea is that from the discovery process, you either create a delivery item, close it down, or perhaps reframe the question and start all over again. You can get through a lot more discovery items than you think. A ratio of 3 to 1 for delivery items is probably do-able for most cross functional teams.

And also be sure to involve the engineers in the discovery tasks (without them the exercise is usually pointless). It puts them closer to the customer and gets them more context into what they are building. By disclosing discovery on the roadmap, when someone asks,

“What are we building for the next 6 weeks?”

You can simply respond,

“Well, that’s what discovery is for. The data we get from discovery during the 6 weeks will usually determine the delivery features for the following 6 weeks.”

16. BA role in product development

Tire Swing Project Management

Product developement from IT failures perspective

17. That Which is Urgent is Not Always Important

That Which is Urgent is Not Always Important

“Urgency” is a Trap

Almost without fail, things that are considered “urgent” are those which are thrust upon us by someone else in the organization. They’re disruptive requests that break our flow and demand our attention. The problem is, the urgency of these things is not determined by us, but rather by others — and reflect not our own carefully-considered strategic goals, but often simply the tactical needs of that other party.

All too often, not only are these tactical needs divergent from our strategic goals, but they act in complete opposition to them. We may have just launched a new project, to bring some valuable feature to our users, solving a problem that they’ve been suffering from for months — but an “urgent” escalation pops up from the last project we worked on.

A new feature, a minor tweak, an obvious bug. All with the expectation that we’ll have our teams drop whatever they’re working on and resolve this. Because it’s urgent…but is it actually important?

“Importance” is Stoic

The best thing about importance is that it’s not usually emotional — whereas urgency is almost always emotional. Important things are those which move us forward, which have positive ROI, and which allow us (and our product, and our company) to achieve our goals.

Questions of importance are questions of alignment, ranking by importance is a matter of understanding impacts and effort, discussions of importance focus on outcomes and not issues. Every Product Manager worth their salt simply must be able to identify when something is actually important — otherwise we wind up randomizing our teams and being fundamentally incapable of delivering value to our customers.

Understanding is Key

There certainly are things that are urgent and important; those are the rare situation that requires immediate action. More often than not, something will be urgent but not important– and in those situations we need to be willing and able to hold off the request until we can properly prioritize it into our work stream.

We need to take time to figure out what it really means, what the consequences of not acting might be, and most importantly to determine to whom we might be able to delegate the responsibility; what’s not important to us might be important to another person or another team.

Delegation is an undervalued skill in Product Management, but an essential tool in our box — especially when we’re being inundated with requests that are urgent to someone but not important enough for us to diverge from our plan.

18. How to run a product/market fit survey

A Practical Setapp Guide for Measuring Product-Market Fit

Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.

Basically, if you want to grow, you need to know customers want your product and, ideally, can’t live without it. And the market is large enough to sustain your growth: that enough potential customers exist and enough of them are going to love the product that growth can and will sustain itself.

Product market fit survey part 1

Product market fit survey part 2

Product market fit survey part 3

When you are putting together a survey, here are the steps to take:

At the core of this survey is the question: “How would you feel if could no longer use [product]?”

If 40% of those who answer say “very disappointed”, then you have achieved product - market fit. Imagine if Google didn’t exist? Or Slack? Or Spotify? You want a response somewhere in the ballpark of: “I’d hate to have to figure out how to get what I need without this product!”

Every next question has to be analyzed by the choice users made in the key question: “How would you feel if you could no longer use Setapp?”

The segmentation is aimed to show the difference between users who consider your product a must-have (very disappointed respondents), users who see value but aren’t there yet (somewhat disappointed respondents) and people who don’t find your product useful (not disappointed respondents). Which helps get a deeper understanding of what makes people love the product.

19. The 3 types: heart, will and head

The Type of Team Diversity You’re Probably Not Paying Attention To

Heart, will, head

Heart

Am I spending too much time trying to please others?

Can I be more more decisive?

Can I look beyond the individual relationship and see the bigger picture?

Will

Am I making decisions to autocratically?

How can I foster better team play?

Can I engage more authentically?

Head

Am I being too critical (of myself and others)?

How can I establish more caring connections with others?

What would it take to bring more strategic focus to my work?

20. Launch to sell – leverage sales enablement to maximize product launches

Launch to sell – leverage sales enablement to maximize product launches

  1. Assess the complexity of the new feature

  2. Determine the potential opportunity or risk

  3. Decide on your sales enablement activities

  4. Create and execute your sales enablement plan

Sales enablement product launch plan

  1. Be prepared to react quickly on launch day

  2. Measure the impact of the product launch

Product launch sales enablement survey

Go to Part 1 and Part 3

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