Product #45

Product #45


How to Lead in Product Management · Roman Pitchler · 2020

Roman is one of my favorite authors in product management. His concise and direct writing style respects the reader's time. He presents comprehensive concepts without unnecessary storytelling, using just enough prose to communicate his points effectively.

The book emphasises the practical challenges associated with the role of a product manager. Successful product management requires close collaboration with your team and stakeholders. Roman effectively identifies these challenges and offers practical advice for overcoming them.

Key Takeaways

Product management presents a multitude of challenges. You lack authority and direct transactional power. You need to collaborate effectively across a large, heterogeneous group whose members you do not choose. The role demands a delicate balance between leadership and individual contribution. You must work across different time spans and levels of detail, such as vision, strategy, and tactics. You also need to be constantly available to participate in agile practices.

Leadership and Trust

Leadership is about influencing people to work towards shared goals. Goals are crucial for guiding a development team and stakeholders. They create purpose, align efforts, and enable autonomy.

Collaborating with your stakeholders simplifies alignment. Involve the right people, build a stakeholder community, and incorporate them into strategic decisions. Leverage their expertise and creativity to build a shared understanding.

Empathy is key. To be effective, you'll need to understand people's needs and interests and take their perspectives into account. You have to choose the right leadership style for the moment (visionary, democratic, affiliative, delegative, coaching, pacesetting, autocratic leader).

To build trust, know your stuff (users, market, and competition). Lead with curiosity and care. Be open-minded and act with integrity. Get to know people, and involve them in product decisions.

Teams and Goals

The best-performing teams are formed around products, are co-located, and stable. Avoid taking on scrum master duties. You'll overload yourself while making it seem like your team doesn't need one.

As a product manager, it's your job to create a chain of goals that stretch into the future, making it clear where you're going and how what you're doing will help.

  • Your vision focuses on the ultimate purpose of your product and the change you want to bring about in the world. This typically has a 5-year timeframe.
  • Your strategy first focuses on the specific user and business goals appropriate for the life-cycle stage of the product. Secondly, your strategy should detail the desired outcome the product should provide within the next 2 to 6 months.
  • Your tactics are sprint goals, immediate metrics you hope to move within 1 to 4 weeks.

At every level, great goals look the same. They are shared, realistic, inspirational, help create alignment, foster autonomy, and are coherent.

Listening, Communication and Conflict

Deep listening enhances connections and aids in decision-making. Move up Covey's five listening levels. Be aware of your emotions and mental state. Ask for clarity, summarize discussions, and observe body language. Allow others to finish speaking before responding.

Observe the Buddhist principles of 'Right Speech'. Say only what you believe to be true. Speak only if it's beneficial to the person listening. Don't use harsh or harmful words. Ensure you speak at the right time and place.

Separate the problem from the person. Move from a blame game to a contribution mindset.

Conflict is common and can foster creativity and innovation if managed properly. Use non-violent communication to resolve conflicts. Look for positive qualities in the individual. Stop reinforcing negative thoughts and emotions. See things from the other person's perspective. Be willing to forgive and ask for forgiveness.

Making Strategic Decisions

Make complex, high-impact decisions with your stakeholders and team. You need their expertise and their buy-in.

Decide when to decide. Don't rush, but don't procrastinate either. Determine the last responsible moment.

Engage the right people in the right way → set ground rules.

Choose a decision rule: unanimity, consent, majority, or PdM decides afterwards.

Disagree and commit. Even if you disagree… commit to it, accept it, follow through with it.

Delegate decisions that others are better qualified to make.

Take the right decision-making steps:

  1. Gather diverse perspectives.
  2. Build shared understanding.
  3. Develop an inclusive solution.

Try to avoid negotiation. If necessary, use Ury and Fisher's 'Principled Negotiation Method' (1981). Separate people from the problem, search for shared interests, generate various options for mutual gain, and use objective criteria to determine the outcome.

Do you feel like you're negotiating too much? Possible reasons could be a lack of authority, an absence of buy-in for your vision, not involving the right people in the process, or individuals being unwilling to collaborate or be transparent.

Personal Effectiveness

Hold personal retrospectives. What did you accomplish this week? What did you learn? What challenges did you overcome? How are you feeling? How has your mood and energy level been? What changes do you want to make?

Be aware of your workload and manage your time. Adopt a suitable pace, so you can continue indefinitely. Ruthless prioritisation is better than cramming.

Full Book Summary · Amazon

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In the News

Marty Cagan's new book, Transformed, has been released. Initially, I was skeptical about this one, as it's been plagued with delays and it seems the author changed midway through the process, with Marty stepping up to rescue the book. However, since hearing Aakash Gupta and Pawel Huryn’s conversation with Marty and reading their blog post about the book, my excitement has grown. It appears it will address the criticisms of Marty's previous works, which were seen as idealistic, theoretical, and not applicable beyond Silicon Valley. Transformed promises to guide us towards a practical way to close the gap. Given the scarcity of resources on Product Operating Models, I'm eager to see how Marty tackles this one.

Amazon · Article · Podcast

Groq is speeding up inference, and it will change how we interact with LLMs. This month, Groq has sparked substantial excitement in the AI community. Founded by the inventor of Google's TPU (Tensor Processing Units), they have discovered a method to enhance inference - the rate at which an LLM can respond to a question. They are achieving speeds of 300 tokens per second, which is 30 times faster than some current models. At present, the speed at which LLMs can respond constrains workflows. This development has significant implications and introduces new interaction possibilities beyond conversational UX. White Paper · Groq

Quick Links

Statistical Process Control: A Practitioner’s Guide · Article

The Controversial Role of Proxies in Product Design · Article

How Might We Defeat Product Owner Anti-Patterns? · Article

The Ultimate Guide to B2B SaaS Pricing and Packaging · Paid Article

OKRs: Lessons from an Enterprise Rollout of OKRs Gone Well · Article

Thread on Reading Tips from the World’s Most Prolific Readers · Tweet

Which Type of Product Manager Are You? Exploring PdM Archetypes · Article

A Great Example of the Context Required to Design a Good Experience · Image

You Need to Customise Your Product Management CV to Get Interviews · Article


First-Mover (Dis)Advantages · 1998

Marvin B. Lieberman, David B. Montgomery.

Are resources and capabilities enhanced by early entry? The bulk of the FMA literature focuses on the potential for pioneering firms to acquire superior resources and capabilities. Early entry into an emerging market may facilitate such accumulations. But pioneers often miss the best opportunities, which are obscured by technological and market uncertainties. In effect, early entrants may acquire the ‘wrong’ resources, which prove to be of limited value as the market evolves.

Many people understand the concept of a first-mover advantage. However, few are aware that the authors who introduced the term admitted to some inaccuracies in their initial findings a decade later. This was because their original paper was based on anecdotal research. They acknowledged that being a first mover could have potential disadvantages, and the benefits of being a follower could be as substantial as those of being a first mover.

View the Paper

See also: Pioneer Advantage: Marketing Logic or Marketing Legend?’ · Paper


Book Highlights

Such unexpected discoveries are the rationale for investing in data collection up front and the rapid and relentless experimenting growth hacking calls for; the more you test, the more data you have to analyze, and the more data you analyze, the more patterns are bound to emerge. Morgan Brown and Sean Ellis · Hacking Growth
Given the problem of predicting the app a user will most likely open next, you can frame it as a regression problem. The input is the user’s features, environment’s features, and an app’s features. The output is a single value between 0 and 1 denoting how likely the user will be to open the app given the context. In this new framing, whenever there’s a new app you want to consider recommending to a user, you simply need to use new inputs with this new app’s feature instead of having to retrain your model or part of your model from scratch. Chip Huyen · Designing Machine Learning Systems
In general, stricter systems provide precise and predictable outcomes and visual consistency. But at the same time, a strict system can become rigid, to the point that you start making UX compromises for the sake of consistency Alla Knolmatova · Design Systems
As you consider building your own minimum viable product, let this simple rule suffice: remove any feature, process, or effort that does not contribute directly to the learning you seek. Eric Ries · The Lean Startup

Best of X

If you wouldn’t ask them for advice, then f*** their criticism. Mark Manson.
How product managers think they should learn "storytelling": - listen to podcasts - learn frameworks - read books How you should actually learn: - explain something difficult in under 100 words - write (often), then edit for 6-7th grade reading level - what, so what, now what George
#1 thing I look for when hiring people is FIO. "Figure It Out.” You can get pretty damn far just by being: - Resourceful - Reliable - Results oriented Tech Sales Guy

What I’m Listening to.

Left: Sundials

Right: Beyond