Managing Product Management
Although I didn’t physically manage to get to #mindtheproduct2012, I did get to enjoy the tweetstream, mainly thanks to the tweets of @welovelean and @mindtheproduct (the latter under the prolific fingertips of James Mayes). If you are, or aspire to be, a product manager, then Mind The Product is a great site, and the presentations will be up there later. I’ve captured the sound bites, and done my best to attribute them to the appropriate speakers (I’m sure the Twitterverse will let me know if I’ve made any slips – it was tricky, as there were quite a few Tom’s on stage – Tom Chi, Tom Loosemore, Tom Coates!). I’ve worked in (and around) product management for two decades, and am still learning. There’s a great mixture of sound advice and inspiration here:
Marty Cagan of svpg
Marty talked about products that can change the world, driving disruption, and putting design and experimentation (and prototyping) front and centre. Product management is about reaching beyond what the customer already knows, to bring them something much better.
“I cannot point to a single successful Founder who was purely mercenary” – driving vision is key.
“Figure out what your customers can’t know” – Customers don’t know what’s possible!
“Two thirds of your ideas won’t work”. Keep that as a rule of thumb!
“If you’re not killing at least half your ideas, you’re wasting build time.”
“Be very stubborn on vision and very flexible on details.”
“Cross-functional, co-located teams.” – a low tech approach with massive benefits.
“Design is not a coat of paint at the end, it’s how it ALL works.”
“the biggest source of innovation is typically the Engineer, they best understand what’s possible.”
“If you’re just using your developers to code, you’re only getting about half their value.”
“It’s not about process, it’s about culture…”
“…Data beats opinions.”
“Quick physical mock-ups can offer huge leaps in interaction understanding.”
“Rate based goals. If one thing has 5% change of success, by the time you try 20 things, 64% of success.”
“To maximise the rate of learning, minimise the time to try things.”
“It’s just as important to define what your product should not be”.
The Nordstrom Labs innovation videos were recommended as a great illustration of these concepts, you can watch them here: Nordstrom Labs.
Tom Hulme – Design Director @ IDEO
Tom had some great points around lean methodology (and its weaknesses):
“Pivoting is promiscuity. It does not necessarily mean progress.”
You have to go through “Ignorant optimism, Informed pessimism” before you can approach value.
“Great businesses evolve their purpose over time.”
“One hour window, each month. Stop, reflect, what’s our purpose? Are we all clear on this?”
“You are what you measure…. so measure the right things!”
“It’s not good enough to drive for revenues, they have to be the right revenues.”
“What metrics tell you if you’re tracking your purpose?”
“Halfway through 4 week training, Zappos offer people $1k to LEAVE”. If they’re motivated, they stay.
Rule of three. If someone’s already doing it well, you need 3x the resource to break in there (paraphrased, via @jearner)
“Don’t copy without understanding. It’s about how it works, not just how it looks”
From Charles Adler (@cadler – co-founder of Kickstarter.com)
“Each feature, each function we put out, regardless of intent, is an experiment”
“Hire curious people, then get out the way”
Tom Loosemore – @tomskitomski of UK Gov’t Digital Services
“Vision should represent the emotional response you want from your customer”
“Hire for attitude. Curious, passionate polymaths”
“Design rules include optimise for common case, build for inclusion, understand context, start with needs”
“We own the process, it doesn’t own us. Kind of Agile Jazz, really!”
“Publish the deadline and vision widely, then we managed scope to fit”
Critical to ensure you don’t live in a bubble and build what you want… actual user, front and centre.
“Start small. Run fast. Gather momentum”
“Feel fear. Then do the right thing anyway”
My top 5 favourite quotes, actually 6 – think of it as a 20% extra offer!
“Be stubborn on vision, be flexible on details.” Marty Cagan
“Process is mostly religion. It’s about the culture you create.” Marty Cagan
“Most our meetings are a big guess-athon. Don’t guess. Learn.” Tom Chi
“Don’t pivot just because the problem is tough to solve.” Tom Hulme
“Methodology beats process. Choose the right tools for the job.” Charles Adler, Kickstarter
“We own the process. The process doesn’t own us. We call it Agile Jazz..” Tom Loosemore
Product management has evolved massively as a discipline over the past decade, but I think we are only just at the beginning of it’s evolution, as skills in design, human behaviour, project management (yes, that) and management sciences converge on the role. If you are a project manager, enjoy it and excel! If you aren’t, but you work with one, be kind – it’s a tough mission!