Upping product skills(?)

Takine reference from this great article by Robert Drury that dissects a trends and benchmarks report by the Product Management Festival. Thought it would be useful to go through the material and make some notes!

Skills required as mentioned in the report

Project Manager > Product Manager

Improve on: Finding creative solutions to problems, focusing on the customer and not the delivery, delegation of delivery to others, thinking strategically rather than operationally, being research and data driven, being able to drop plans and respond to new inputs, making decisions and not just managing them

The art of innovation by Guy Kawasaki

Watch here

1.Make meaning — how can you change the world?

eg. Apple wanted to democratize computing power, Google wanted to democratize information, ebay wanted to democratize commerce

2.Make a mantra — find 2 or 3 words to describe why that meaning should exist

eg. Wendy’s should be healthy fast food, Nike should be authentic athletic performance, FedEx should be peace of mind

3.Jump to the next curve — not just 10%, move up an entire level

eg. ice harvesting and innovation was to get a bigger horse. ice 2.0 is an ice factory and you don’t need winter you can just freeze water and deliver in an ice truck no more climate and seasonal limitation. ice 3.0 the fridge and you can keep things cold, your personal ice factory. none of the organisations moved up the curve, most organisations define themselves by what they do, not what they provide.

4.Roll the DICEE — Deep Intelligent Complete

Deep,more functionality

Intelligent, understands the user’s needs

Complete, the totality of the product the documentation, how to use etc

Empowering, enhance and change the meaning of your life

Elegant,somebody cared about the usability

5.Don’t worry, be happy — the first product will have elements of crappiness to it

If you wait for the perfect world, you would never ship. When you have jumped to the next curve, its okay to have elements of crappiness in your revolution.

6.Let 100 flowers blossom — at the start of great innovation you might have in mind who your customer is, but you may be surprised that people use products in ways you did not anticipate

Take your best shot with positioning and branding. If your customers say it’s this. It’s this.

7.Polarize people — it depends on who’s the receiving end of your product

8.Churn baby, churn — keep changing and evolving your product

9.All the marketing you know — must have Value and be Unique

10.Perfect your pitch — you must know this

Customize your introduction to your audience.

10/20/30. 10 slides, 20 minutes,30 points font (take your oldest person in audience and divide by 2).

11.Don’t let the bozos grind you down — rich and famous !=correct

Creative thinking — how to get out of the box and generate ideas: Giovanni Corazza at TEDxRoma

Watch here

Why go out of the box? Inside the box we feel safe and in agreement. But when we go out we risk our reputation. It’s a necessity to move out because this makes us different from others.

Which box? It’s a boundary within our minds between what we know and what we don’t know. We start with some initial conditions others have created, then the rest is your own experiences. Add something additional to the convergent information. Something that at first site is unclear where it fits. But you need this to help cross the mental boundaries.

Resist the temptation to go into the box.

What is the value of a new idea? Look for the fit between the new idea and initial focus. Or evaluate the idea for its own value and see if it solves another problem that isn’t initially yours.

When is it a good idea to challenge others around you? If the environment punishes mistakes you will not be tempted to leave the box. If you want a stimulating environment, you need to allow divergent information to exist.

Uses TEDx itself as an example. Convergent information — you need good speakers, good theme, fast speaker-to-speaker transition, grand settings. But these are things known. Apply a divergent modifier to any of these things. “Exaggerate”, organise TEDx in an even larger location such as a stadium. Proceeds to shoot it down because its hard to fill a stadium. So what about having TEDx at football match half-times?

Don’t need the brilliant speakers? Okay how about just take the script and swap it around. Take away the element of the ego and have duets?

Project management to product management by Product Plan

Read here

Simlarities: Both project managers and product managers need to be strong communicators, making sure everyone on your team understands both their own role and the big-picture goals.

  • As a project manager or product manager, you need to be skilled at pulling together cross-functional teams from across your company and helping them work as a cohesive unit.
  • For either position, you need to develop an ability to see the bigger picture (of the project or product), so you’re able to sense obstacles or opportunities in advance and adjust accordingly.
  • Project managers and product managers both need to be skilled at managing project scope, to ensure the initiative doesn’t veer off-track or waste resources.


  • Whereas product managers are primarily focused outward (on markets, users, competitors), project managers are focused inward (on coordinating internal resources, monitoring deadlines, and tracking tasks).
  • Project managers need to become skilled at keeping track of every detail and to-do item needed to complete a complex initiative; product managers must keep their focus high-level and strategic.
  • Project managers tend to measure success by how closely they’re able to complete a project based on the agreed-upon plan. Deviating from that plan is typically considered a setback. Successful product managers, by contrast, need to be flexible and adaptable to meet the changing demands of users or the market.
  • Product managers are skilled at telling a company what to build and why; project managers are skilled at figuring out how to build it.

Start with why — how great leaders inspire action | Simon Sinek | TEDxPugetSound

Watch here — preface the talk at the beginning and refer back to it as examples

WHAT — post people know this

HOW — value prop

WHY — why does your organisation exist? They think, act, and communicate from the inside out.

WHAT>WHY. We make computers. They are beautifully done.

WHY>WHAT. We believe in thinking differently. They are beautifully done.

Neurological standpoint — It corresponds to how it is done. WHAT is neocortex, for acting. WHY is limbic brain, decision-making.

Be motivated by the right thing.

People show up for themselves — they need to believe the why in order to use it.

What Is Strategy? Why It’s More Than a To-Do List by Hubspot

Watch here

Most view strategy as a set of metrics and goals.

Strategy is as much what you do and don’t do.

  1. Diagnosis that defines the challenge — realistic understanding of the current state of the business
  2. Guiding policy for dealing with the change — also rules out other policies
  3. Set of coherent actions to accomplish the policy

Business Analyst> Product Manager

Improve on: Managing stakeholders and getting them on board, developing usability as well as a user flow, working on the why and not just the how, handling day-to-day decision making that affects the work the team is working on.

The Difference Between a Product Manager Role and a Business Analyst

Watch here

Product manager is “CEO of the product”, own the strategy, roadmap, feature definition, sometimes even marketing, coordinating with sales, forecasting, overall P&L, responsibilities for the product.

Business analysis is to enable change in the organisation by defining needs and recommending solutions. If it involves software then you need to collaborate and facilitate a discussion between business and development team.

What are the Strategies to Manage Stakeholders by Boeing PM

Watch here, Slides here

Product manager’s job is to define/understand the vision of the product. Define/understand the strategy how to achieve the business outcome. Implement the product roadmap. And also the product backlog.

Difficult to manage all these different people that are needed to build a successful product.

Stakeholders are important because they help you build a successful product.

Stakeholder management is to achieve:

Alignment — goals of product team are same or beneficial to those of stakeholders. Aligned by force because someone told them? Value for what your stakeholder wants? Relationships with stakeholder?

Importance — measure of a stakeholder’s inherent influence on a product team. Stakeholder’s perception of importance is different than their actual importance from perspective of PM.

Note: be careful about using this framework as-is

Align to them or Align to you.

  • depends on how your organisation works. if it’s very top-down, then vision strategy roadmap might be established high and given to product team to execute
  • Achieve product-market fit. Then you have a business. This is done through MVPs.
  • Doubling down on the alignment principles by hitting on the other ones so people will be incentivised to keep advocating for you
  • Importance — if your stakeholder pulls out then what happens?
  • Don’t spend way too much time on advocates because they’re already there. Advocates need to be maintained, find opportunities to make them look good
  • Supportive — keep them around, they’re aligned
  • Cautious — can’t disregard them because they become a risk
  • Danger — who knows what they can do to you. They can have a negative impact on the product success
  • Help! I need a PM experiment. Provided data to other stakeholders that people need PM time.
  • Vary your approach according to the preferred style of your stakeholders
  • Make concessions and people will be more inclined to compromise too

Justify Your Product Decisions and get Stakeholder Buy in by Teresa Torres

Watch here

don’t want to fall to the HIghestPaidPerson’sOpinion

Humility — no feature on Netflix had more than 2% lift in retention

Opportunity Solution Tree — to visualise your thinking in a way that invites others to participate with you. Starts with a focus on Outcomes, not Outputs.

Helps you to prioritise too. So you can go to your stakeholders with the big categories and ask for priorities. A bit like an affinity diagram.

Need to compare and contrast where we can have the most impact.

You only create value for customers WHEN YOU SHIP CODE.

As you run experiments, share them with your stakeholders. Capture your results and ask them to interpret results with you.

  1. Don’t fixate on a right answer
  2. Show your work
  3. Discern better options from worse ones

Summary: key takeaway from the Opportunity Solution Tree is to consider multiple opportunities and solutions. Whilst this may sound like no brainer, we’re often tempted to zoom in on or commit to a single opportunity or solution straight away, failing to consider its impact on the desired outcome. With some help from MAA1's article here.

How to Drive Roadmap Prioritization and Planning by Microsoft PM

Watch here

What should we build? How to prioritise what to build first?

If you’re not transparent about how you make decisions, you will be in trouble.

OKR Objectives should be long term, up to 3 per PM, 5 per PM team. KRs should be Specific Measruable Attainable Relevant Timely, 3–5KR per objective

It’s possible you diagnose a problem but your solution isn’t that good. But your team can give better solutions.

He rephrases the question back to the asker when he is asked. It’s a great technique to ensure clarity.

If you tell people what your objective is, it becomes much easier. Then people know how to help also.

OARP — Owner, Approver, Reviewer, Participant .Close to RACI model

Recommended to read Measure what Matters

Close the loop by tracking success

Final takeway

Software Engineer > Product Manager

F8 2018: Creative User Research Methods for Startups

Watch here

Feasibility (technical), Vialibity (business), Desirable (human)

Desirable — thoughtful user research. need to know how important and how to listen to people.

Some methods: usability tests, surveys, intevriews, focus groups.

  1. Group debates — get people aware of the product but are not using it. Get them in a room together and have them debate their positions. You’ll get stronger signal faster. See what messages are resonating and isn’t. Best used when you have launched the product already. This is better for overall product.
  2. Participatory design — ask people to draw their ideal solution for your product. Interact in a very tangible way. User gets to be a part of the creative process. Good for pre-design and prioritising what drives the most value for users.
  3. In-the-moment snippets — find out how your product fits in others’ lives. Ask them interact as they normally would. Screenshot/Video of their environment. Ask them a few questions about what they were doing before/after or who they were with. Good when product has launched, good when product relies on certain contexts, or when it’s part of an overall workflow.

How users understand new products — Michelle Fitzpatrick at Inside Intercom London

Watch here

People break down a product into its individual functions. A system model of how the product works. When mental models match the system model then its considered intuitive.

Can also hook on existing mental models like lists and messaging.

People shouldn’t spend time learning how to interface with your product. Use the langauge your customers use.

Google is very good at this. Google Drive, Maps, Mail, Calendar. Very literal.

Metaphors lets you hook onto people’s existing mental models.

Marketing Executive > Product Manager

Requirements Collecting Techniques

Watch here

First thing — this was out in 2012

  1. Needs to be complete,
  2. Correct,
  3. Feasible

Inputs — project charter and the stakeholder register

Collect the requirements then you have your requirements management plan and traceability matrix.

Done through interviews, brainstorming, facilitated workshops, questionaires, group decision techniques (majority, consensus, dictatorship)

How to Write Good User Stories

Watch here

User stories are used in the product backlog and it is ordered based on value.

Focus on the Who, What, and Why.

  1. Understand customer value from perspective of the customer
  2. Know your user or customer. Worth it to create rich personas to think about the user and their priorities. Sometimes your functionality has more than one user.
  3. Focus on the “What” and not the “How”. As a <who>, I want <what> so that <why>

Leave a bit out of the user story so you can have a conversation.



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