I’d love to be able to tell you that I am always on point in delivering to my Product Philosophy, but I know that would be false. Like everyone, I have good days and bad and both product successes and failures in my role as a product manager.
Through it all however, I do try to stay true to my Product Philosophy – my true north, when it comes to product design and delivery and in managing product teams. For me the bottom line is creating value – delivering useful and engaging propositions that solve for customer (or in my case members’) needs. To help me get there I try and keep grounded in the guiding principles below.
So much of the narrative around product management is focussed on creating the next ‘new thing’ – the shiny, new bauble.
While the development and design of new propositions is part of any product manager’s accountability, it is important not to get distracted from the ongoing management of the proposition in market and ensuring that it is delivering value to your business and most importantly, your customers.
Great ideas are never in short supply, but great ideas that solve for a customer problem or need are.
I often tell my business stakeholders, “An idea is not an opportunity. You need to know what value your idea will deliver; what problem it is solving for.”
Never lose sight of your customer when designing your product or service – whether your customer is in a B2B or B2C context, they should be at the centre of everything you do.
Tony Ulwick’s Jobs To Be Done framework is invaluable in framing and uncovering the customer problem or need you are designing for. In applying the JBTD approach, you will also in be in a better position to align your existing products with specific market opportunities as well as develop new ones to address unmet customer needs.
Too often I encounter product initiatives which are poorly defined and unmeasured.
‘Product innovation’ is not a leave pass to skip essentials such as benefit design and forecasting (both financial and non-financial). You need to be able define and measure success and most importantly, translate these into actionable product performance insights.
Value Driver Trees can be very helping in focussing and defining key attributes of your product and proposition to measure.
Once you have defined your measures of success then you need to measure and track them! Good product portfolio management should incorporate ongoing measurement and analysis of key product and business metrics, which should then form the basis of business priorities and your product pipeline.
It may seem obvious, but you need to get stuff done. To gain the confidence and trust of the business, you need to build a strong record of delivery.
In my experience, having some ‘runs on the board’ means you have greater leeway to explore and develop more innovative propositions (often with less certain or known returns/benefits) if the business is confident in your ability to deliver, assess and pivot when needed. This is particularly true for larger corporates who may have more structured governance and risk frameworks to navigate.
Never stop learning and help your team to continuously evolve and develop their product management skills.
Learning brings new perspectives, tools and thinking to your product strategy and will ultimately deliver a better customer outcome and value.
In the age of online learning there are many opportunities to extend your learning beyond the physical borders of where you live, both formally and informally.
I recently enrolled in Dan Ariely’s Changing Customer Behaviour course online. It explores the psychology of customer decision making and behaviour and I am finding it very useful in reviewing and assessing both our product set and how we take them to market to deliver more optimal customer outcomes.
I also participate in the many conferences and meetups that bring the Product community together and encourage my team to do likewise.
Effective product managers need to be highly skilled story tellers. As product managers, our stakeholders tend to be many and varied, as we work deep within our business as well as broadly acrossit. Frequent communication can be the difference in getting stakeholder support (or not).
Don’t underestimate the power of communication and storytelling in building the advocacy that is critical when you meet the roadblocks and challenges that invariably occur when developing and managing your product portfolio. Keep working on your storytelling skills. Find ‘friendly’ stakeholders within the business and leverage them to practice and refine your communication approach.
Having fun at work is often under-rated but I think it shines through in your product proposition and the way you engage across the business. Of course, you need to be serious about your work and role, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have fun in the process.
As a product manager, you must motivate, inspire and mobilise the business. If you are a ‘grumpy cat’, then you will find your effectiveness very limited.
This is Service Design Thinking, Marc Stickdorn
The Secrets of Big Business Innovation, Dan Taylor
The Lean Startup, Eric Ries
Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely
Good Charts, by Scott Berinato
Putting Stories to Work, Shawn Callahan
Women in Product Melbourne