Like many technology geeks, when I need to get creative or start a brand new project I tend to try out various tools hoping they would help me get the job done, but what usually ends up happening is that I get distracted and find myself hours later making very little progress.
Product management is all about connecting the dots between business and product, strategy and execution, the big picture and the small details. I focused some earlier posts on the former two and will devote this post and some upcoming ones to the later — the importance of attention to detail.
With the rise of UX design you’d expect that the importance of the written word would be recognized as an integral part of the design process — from the conceptual stages where you consider whether, where and how to use text vs. graphics all the way to detailed design where actual text is incorporated and reviewed. Unfortunately, I’ve rarely seen that happen in practice.
Two trends stand out to me when I reflect on my experience leading product teams over the past 10+ years. The first is the profound transformation the product management profession is undergoing and the second is that lessons learned from building B2C products are gradually changing how B2B products are designed, managed and built.
When looking at both trends more closely I got a strong sense of déjà-vu — both are reminiscent of the transformation the marketing profession underwent over the past 15 years:
Hiring great people in a startup is really tough, and hiring great product managers is no exception.
There are many good posts on the topic – my two favorites are Kenneth Norton’s guidelines on hiring great PMs and Ian McAllister‘s, Quora answer for “What distinguishes the Top 1% of Product Managers from the Top 10%?” — both are must reads for anyone looking to hire and nurture high performing product managers.
I wanted to add some tactical lessons I’ve learned over the years that help me during the interview process:
Like in a game of Broken Telephone, some of the most common terms used to describe agility and the “new age” of startup culture and product development have taken a meaning quite different than their original intent, one that could be counter productive and in some cases destructive to teams’ ability to execute.
The essence of agile methodology is allowing teams to handle smaller, more manageable chunks of work, get market feedback, quickly adapt and correct course. The benefits of this approach are numerous but, like many other management approaches, the devil is in the details – how do you determine what those smaller chunks of work are and how do you find the best way to move forward after receiving feedback?
Here are a few common misconceptions of agile product development:
Over the past few years, as agile methodology gained traction, I’ve met quite a few teams that were struggling to balance between the need to be agile while creating and communicating a mid to long term roadmap.
A well communicated roadmap allows engineers and PMs to have a guiding light telling them where they need to direct their efforts and allows you to better align other teams to get the most out of every product feature you deliver. This clarity enables your business partners in sales and marketing to better communicate to the market where the product is headed, generate more leads and close more business.
On the other hand, spending too much time in advance on rigid, detailed plans may make you unable to quickly respond to market feedback and new opportunities that present themselves.
Here’s a simple framework that worked for me and my team:
… the other hard thing for bosses (I hate that word, btw) is to learn from their own mistakes when they don’t let their people make their own mistake.
For bosses, I think the hardest thing is letting people make their own mistakes. Resisting the desire to intervene. It’s the whole question of whether you are controlling people or coaching people. You can’t do both. It’s easy to jump to control. People seek control in their lives and of their destinies. But as a boss you can’t really do that. All you can do is point people toward what you want them to do and try to get them to do it better. That requires a lot of patience and a lot of perceptiveness. It doesn’t come easy to many people in management positions.