Product Leadership

Product Leadership

Author
Banfield, Eriksson and Walkingshaw
Year
2017
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Review

I found Product Leadership incredibly hard to read. I had no sense of place, I got lost in the long chapters and dense walls of text. I’m not surprised this book was written by three people, it doesn’t feel like a single piece of work. The nature of product leadership changes depending on the nature of the organisation (startup vs emerging vs enterprise). The authors reflected this in the structure of the book, which ultimately created duplication and made it harder to compare the differences.

If you can stick it out, there are a few great insights into transitioning from a product practitioner to leader. However, I think the books below are a better use of your time.

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Key Takeaways

The 20% that gave me 80% of the value.

  • Agile freed product management from focusing on deliverables and specifications, to focusing on customer collaboration
  • Product leaders connect vision with implementation → they align the product team directly with the business vision and goals
  • You need to be viewed by the entire product team as the leader of the product
    • BUT the product management role doesn’t come with authority. You’re not the boss.
    • You gain authority through your actions and your leadership skills
    • Management is earned through positive behaviour
  • If you’re managing a team of makers, judge your day by how well you protected them from distractions and what they were able to make
  • Other leadership roles are responsible for bringing a particular perspective to the table but product has to bring them all together
  • Product leadership… your day-to-day work becomes less important than how you actually lead a team to accomplish something
  • Collaboration is not consensus. Consensus rarely happens, people don’t have to agree every time
  • How to hire, onboard, train, and develop people is a problem you need to solve
  • Individual growth plans for leaders and their teams are as important as team training
  • The product is the entire experience and the community
  • Know who’s a roadblock, who’s a decision maker and develop strategies to deal with them
  • Articulate your product and design principles clearly.
  • A vision should be timeless
    • Don’t confuse an enduring mission with a temporal goal.
    • Disconnect your future from time / trends / technology / methods
  • Be flexible on the details
    • Translate the vision into near-term goals in the form of OKRs (objectives and key results) and roadmaps.
    • OKRs and roadmaps can and should change as new information is received
    • OKRs and roadmaps are living documents, add appropriate caveats
  • Get buy-in from stakeholders on the 4-6 strategic goals you want to accomplish during the year → then work with stakeholders to define the initiatives that will fit those strategic goals
  • Translate the vision into specific product goals → that must be accomplished over the next year
  • Roadmaps help provide focus, create alignment, show priority, create visibility and coordinate across teams
    • What they don’t do…
      • It’s not a release plan → leave out dates and timelines
      • It’s not detailed → JTBD, user stories etc are too granular.
      • It’s It is not a commitment → just a guide
      • It’s not a Gantt chart → you can’t track dependencies at this level
  • The roadmap is not what creates the value → it’s the process of understanding and negotiating that the team goes through → to own the problems and commit to solving them
  • Shifting a roadmap to themes can be incredibly powerful.
    • A theme is a promise to solve a problem → making learning about the customer / problem important. It gives teams permission to do discovery
  • Ask why is this the right time? Why is this important? What matters right now?
  • Managing the unknown
    • You won’t have all this information to hand → embrace ambiguity
    • Split your focus between learning about your customers and building for them
    • Form a hypothesis → validate it as quickly as possible through testing
    • Think in terms of bets → I bet that by doing X we’ll see Y
      • you don’t feel bad if your bet is wrong
      • can help encourage a culture of experimentation
    • If optimising an existing product → make small bets → and use A/B or multivariate testing
    • If betting on a new product → most build an MVP approach
      • BUT building MVPs is expensive
      • Instead → focus on learning → test the riskiest assumptions (RAT: riskiest assumption test)
      • Don’t build more than what’s required to test your largest unknown
  • The experience your customers have is a direct outcome of the people you hire and the decisions they make
  • Autonomy motivates teams, scales better and moves faster than top-down models
  • Diversity is an imperative → create people soup
  • Move from inflexible products, processes, and platforms to constant iteration and learning
  • Leaders must guide people in a way that’s valuable for the company and for them
  • Designing people’s careers is frequently the best way to ensure that teams retain talent
  • People want to be challenged, recognised, and respected
Why questions to help you understand your reports
  1. What dreams and plans do you have for your life?
  2. Why these particular dreams and plans?
  3. What is the problem you are working to solve?
  4. Why is this a problem worth solving?
  5. What does it look like several years into your career?
  6. When you were an eight-year-old, what did you spend your time doing?
  7. Why do you think those activities were attractive to you?
  8. Can you describe those activities in detail?
  9. How are they connected to your current work or career path?
  • What hard work are they willing to do each day that get them closer to the outcomes you both seek?
  • Developing soft skills is hard → you need to use a coaching approach where you focus on one skill at a time and coach the team member whenever that situation comes up
  • Balance Discovery and Delivery
    • Great product leaders spend the majority of their time focusing on discovery
    • Discover for value and then deliver on that value
    • A picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth a thousand meetings
    • Make discovery a regular commitment, just part of the process → include it in existing rituals (stand-ups, retrospectives, etc)
    • Process means nothing without a great team. Choose the team first, and then decide what process amplifies their best efforts.
  • Communicate with care → train yourself to listen, to watch your words, and to consider the way they are received
  • The best product managers focus on defining and prioritising problems, not solutions.
  • Think about success in the short and long term.
  • Most metrics suffer from being a single point of measurement
    • Use several metrics in the experience to measure the outcome to drive your product strategy forward
    • Actionable, measurable, and time-bound metrics that balance the short term and the long term are the best practice by the world’s best practitioners
Common Characteristics of Successful Product Teams
  • Lifelong learning
  • Actively seeking new information, insights, and understanding is a cornerstone to successful product management
  • Strong communication
  • Empathy
  • Diversity
  • Business savvy
  • Cross-functional representation
  • Collocation
  • Autonomy
  • Interdependence
  • Accountability
How to Identify Product Leaders
  • Plays well with others
  • Seeks challenge
  • Gets their hands dirty
  • Always acts and thinks “team first”
  • Is comfortable wearing lots of hats
  • Displays curiosity
  • Communicates well
  • Possesses selling skills
  • Has exceptional time management skills
  • Is a visionary
  • Shows equanimity/grace under fire
  • Hire a manager of one, great hires are able to manage themselves
  • Add people that make your job, and the jobs of the other team members, easier
  • Hire people that are going to produce a multiple of what others can produce
  • They should ask lots of questions
  • Keep learning → educate yourself → understand what skills you have and where you need to improve
  • Giving APMs responsibility and ownership above their experience level or skill set provides them with a practical education that would be difficult for them to find anywhere else
  • The move from IC to leader means you need to think beyond the product, and point your experience, empathy, communication, and problem-solving skills at the company and the team too
  • What can I do to make the people on my team successfull
Here’s a checklist for what it means to become a great product leader:
  • Do what leaders do, but be true to you
  • Articulate a clear vision and the path to get there
  • Protect your team (from distractions)
  • Create a process that delivers the best results
  • Optimise your tools, but don’t get bogged down
  • Be serious about customers
  • Be there when you’re needed, but otherwise stay out of the way
  • In Startups…
    • There is no legacy holding you back in startups, so making change is easy
    • Ask forgiveness, not permission. Speed is everything. Runway is short.
    • Data only becomes a thing when more customers accrue → providing more evidence and chance for experimentation
    • Acquisition costs and lifetime value become the order of the day
    • De-risking the future is a huge part of the product leader’s job
    • a focused segment is a counter balance to lacking time and money
    • Ascribe metrics to what you can control → so you know if you’re actually making a difference
    • Always follow the number one problem. Focus on the #1 problem, not on the #2 or #3.
    • There’s no point in building a feature if you don’t know why you’re building it
    • Research, gather data, and prototype until you understand the problem and can articulate a solution clearly and without doubt
    • The largest challenge for any organisation and any leader is aligning the vision with the day-to-day work
    • Roadmaps are just the output of a conversation and an agreement
    • Continuous communication needs to err on the side of over-communication
    • By the time you’re talking to your 10th or 15th prospect, you can describe the problem to them
    • Make research accessible → get it into the hands of the team in digestible bits
    • To know what to prioritise, a leader must operate at the level of solving problems rather than at the level of functionality.
    • Regardless of the size of a company, small teams appear to work better than large teams
    • Before adding something to the roadmap ask…
      1. It is clear what the real struggle is? In other words, can you see beyond the noise and identify the real problem or pain?
      2. Can you discern whether that pain is something aligned with the vision and roadmap of the product or company?
      3. Does it need to be solved?
      4. Does the company need to solve this problem to achieve its goals? How urgent is this to delivering value to the customer?
      5. If urgent, then does the company have the resources to solve this problem right now? Or should we postpone it until later?
      6. If the resources are available, does this reinforce the value of the product? Or does this reduce the value?
      7. If it reinforces value, is that value easy to describe and communicate to the customer and product team? If not, why is it hard to describe? Is it just complicated or is it not aligned with the vision, brand, or roadmap?
    • Who will be the humans that delight in exchanging time, money, or energy for your solution? Have you really listened to them? Have you immersed yourself in their world to truly understand their pain
  • In emerging organisations…
    • You shift from managing things to managing people
    • New team members must understand that it is their job to know more than anyone in the company about their product area and its customers
    • Learn to be a servant leader → serve the customer’s needs not your ideas
    • Check your ego, stay focused on the user
    • Practitioners need good hard skill, leaders need soft skills
    • Establish a strategy behind your vision. Take the big-picture future and turn it into a path that will guide the team to that outcome
      • the vision is aspirational and the strategy is execution
      • don’t lump vision and strategy together, they are very different things
    • there should be an adjustment loop to the vision, to accommodate insights from practitioners and customers
    • Build the team slowly to maintain quality, don’t lower the bar
  • In enterprise organisations
    • The hardest part of your job might be delivering value to existing customers while simultaneously growing existing or new markets
    • Learn to focus on the most interesting customer segment → not all customers are created equal
    • Conflicting business goals, competing priorities, localised performance measures, and success criteria constrain the rate of innovation.
    • Cohesion is a requirement. Are your customers getting consistent experiences, or are you shipping the seams of your organisation to them?
    • Measure the right thing. Choose balancing metrics, you need both…
      • Performance-oriented numbers like revenue, ARR, and CAC
      • Quality or customer satisfaction numbers, such as LTV and NPS
    • Get really interested in understanding how the customer is measuring success
    • On collaboration → champion connection over artefacts
    • Take executives’ hands off the reins and introduce a level of autonomy within your company
  • Trust Is the glue → building trust starts with making something together
  • Internal budgets are generally constructed in a vacuum, so they reveal nothing about the actual cost of the work required to complete a project
  • Weigh strategic value versus cost. Determining the cost of the work is not the same as determining the value of the work.
    • How do we deliver value? We hire amazing people, and we create an environment where they can do the best work in their career.
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Deep Summary

Longer form notes, typically condensed, reworded and de-duplicated.

Introduction

  • Product leaders are accountable for success but lack direct authority. Great product leaders therefore lead by influence and example, and align their activities with the greater organisation.

Part I. The Product Leader

Chapter 1. What Is Product Management?

  • The job of a product manager is to discover a product that is valuable, usable, and feasible
    • It sits at the intersection between business, user experience, and technology
    • You should have deep experience in one and be passionate about all three
      • Business: focus on maximising business value from a product.
      • UX: be the voice of the customer inside the business and champion the problems they’re trying to solve
      • Technology: understanding the technology stack, and effort involved, is crucial to making the right decisions.
  • The Role
    • You need to do whatever needs to be done → the role is broad
    • You have to be comfortable…
      • Setting strategy, being inspirational and thinking long term
      • Making things happen and being operational
    • Set a vision for the product
      • Research the market, their customer, and the problem the customer is trying to solve.
      • Assimilate lots of information (qualitative feedback, quantitative data, research reports, market trends)
      • You need to believe and promote the product vision
      • Driving the vision forward (where management and leadership overlap)
        • communicate and reinforce the path on a daily basis
      • For a product to be successful everyone has to understand and be passionate about the vision
    • Build an actionable, strategic plan to get closer to the vision → a roadmap of incremental improvements, problem validation, and iterative design and development
    • Requires detailed orientation
    • Define and iterate the product as it evolves
    • Solve problems as they arise
    • Manage scope so the product goes to market on time and on budget
    • Pore over data and talking to customers
      • Did it solve the right problem?
      • Do the customers understand the product’s value?
      • Will they pay for the product?
    • iterating in short cycles. across many features or products, in different stages in their life cycle, switching from strategy to tactics
    • Product managers continuously switch between the 10,000-feet view and the 2-inch view
    • The PM works with everyone to define this how this thing should work, and this is why it should work in that way
    • The glue that holds together all the various functions and roles together
    • The job requires hard and soft skills (persuasion, negotiation, storytelling, vision setting, and communication)
      • You need to present and communicate their ideas to others in clear, concise ways

Origin story of product management

  • The original product managers and in FMCG today are part of the marketing function
    • focus on understanding their customers’ needs
    • finding a way to fulfil those needs
      • Using marketings four p’s (product, place, price, promotion)
    • Sales and profits were the key metric. Physical products were hard to iterate on though, so the focus was on place, price and promotion
  • Procter and Gamble ‘Brand Men’ 1931
    • conceived in a memo written by Neil H. McElroy at Procter & Gamble
    • they had absolute responsibility for a brand — from tracking sales to managing the product, advertising, and promotions.
    • conducted field testing and client interaction.
  • ‘Brand Men’ ethos used at Hewlett and Packard 1943-1995
    • interpreted it as putting decision making as close as possible to the customer and making the product manager the voice of the customer within the company.
    • HP sustained a 50-year record of unbroken 20%
  • The Toyota way - a focus on waste reduction
    • kaizen → improving the business continuously while always driving for innovation and evolution
    • genchi genbutsu → going to the source to find the facts to make correct decision
  • Product management in technology
    • brought back a focus on product development
    • aligning the needs of the customer with product development
    • both marketing and product can feel they own the customer and understand the marketplace
    • marketing is evolving to be more about owning the brand and customer acquisition
  • Product and Agile
    • Lessons taken from agile:
      • Value individuals and interactions over processes and tools
      • Working software over comprehensive documentation
      • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
      • Responding to change over following a plan
    • Agile freed product management from focusing on deliverables and specifications, to focusing on customer collaboration
      • changing the relationship between product management and engineering from adversarial to collaborative
      • focusing on the customer eased the artificial separation between the research, specification, and development phases of a project
      • brought ‘the business’ closer through the creation of Lean practices and the development of the Lean Startup and Lean Enterprise
  • Product management is increasingly a standalone function with a seat at the management table and a direct report to the CEO
    • product leaders connect vision with implementation
    • aligns the product team directly with the business vision and goals
      • creates evangelists of the vision
      • give others the independence necessary to make tough calls
  • Sales, marketing, product … who owns the go-to-market pricing of a product?
    • more and more the product leader of the organisation is making these decisions
  • Product management needs to be at least a peer to engineering and marketing, report to the CEO
  • Are your product discovery and delivery teams empowered to change the company’s vision, strategy, culture, and processes?

What next for Product Management?

  • It’s slowly absorbing parts of marketing, including user acquisition… because a good product is often the most cost-effective and fastest way to grow.
  • Product continues to take on elements of user experience, separating the user flows and experience from the visual design.
The value is that the feature actually solves the problem for the users. It’s an outcome that matters, not the output Melissa Perri

Chapter 2. Why Is Product Leadership So Relevant?

  • A product leader…
    • is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of a product
    • implements the company vision
    • focuses on what is most important to the company
    • has a 1,5 and 10 year vision for the product and articulates it to the leadership team and wider organisation
    • understand what success of their product means
    • makes the vision become reality, by doing whatever it takes.
  • You need to be viewed by the entire product team as the leader of the product
    • BUT the product management role doesn’t come with authority. You’re not the boss.
    • You gain authority through your actions and your leadership skills
    • management is earned through positive behaviour
  • Take an active role in building culture and leading their teams through the mundane
  • There’s a healthy tension between engineering, product, and marketing
  • Product leaders are increasingly responsible for connecting the dots between the executive vision and the practical work on the ground
  • Product leaders are needed because as a company grows, founders can’t get into the details enough to understand all the nuances and tradeoffs of those decisions
  • A product leader needs to balance the triumvirate of viability, feasibility, and usability
    • people closest to the customer are often best suited to make product decisions
    • product leaders are best suited to shape the direction of the product
  • If you’re managing a team of makers, judge your day by how well you protected them from distractions and what they were able to make
  • Management is changing
    • Less about orders
    • More about motivation and creating a safe mental and physical places for makers and problem solvers to work
    • Make those doing the work the heroes
  • Challenges for product leadership
    • some parts of the business don’t understand the value of the role
    • product leaders wear several hats, which can make the role hard to understand for others
    • Other leadership roles are responsible for bringing a particular perspective to the table
      • product has to put together each disciplines angle
  • A responsible and mature culture… “I don’t know but I can find out”
  • Product leadership… your day-to-day work becomes less important than how you actually lead a team to accomplish something
    • Product leadership has to focus on strategy and to really think about how all of the different elements come together with the overall company strategy
  • What is difficult for product leaders?
    • determining what to spend time, money, and energy on
      • navigating pet projects
      • being able to conduct proper market research to validate whether the market truly needs what they’re building
      • dealing with stakeholders
        • imposing choices or opinions without data or understanding
        • highest paid person’s opinion / seagull attack (swoop and poop)
      • expect your roadmap to be hijacked from time by pressing issues
      • Prioritisation can be polarising
        • emotions can run high
    • Collaborate at several levels → connect with all the stakeholders and communicate to each of them why certain choices have to be made
      • develop a shared understanding of the vision and purpose for the product

    9d62690e77d64e92adda201d2f2d738580008db92d1c44269e9e5c6302a9e1de
    • product leaders need to be learning the art and science of prioritisation
    • Say no, if it doesn’t make sense in the context of our larger strategy at this time
  • Make sure you’re doing discovery
    • Time, money, and energy is being wasted building features that the market doesn’t want or need because product leaders aren’t getting the research done
    • create a testable prototype of the idea, feature, or interaction that is being planned.
  • Use the scientific method where you can (testable hypothesis, generating evidence for or against) → this gives you something to push back against bad decisions
  • Collaboration is not consensus. Consensus rarely happens, people don’t have to agree every time
  • Co-create roadmaps with stakeholder (and benefit from the IKEA effect)… meet stakeholders to talk them through. Don’t communicate prioritise over email.
  • Every idea should go through the same process
    • If there’s no data, evidence or testing behind it → it shouldn’t be picked vs one that’s backed by research and testing.
    • If you have a robust process, it will expose a lack of evidence and make it visible.
    • Making pet project ideas from the exec easier to combat and neutralises politics meaning good ideas can come from anyone/anywhere
    • As a product leader, you’ll need to build trust with your CEO → before you can deflect pet projects
  • Amazing teams make amazing products.
    • How to hire, onboard, train, and develop people is a problem you need to solve
  • Before you hire you need to know the purpose of your team and the problem you’re trying to solve. This is a form of discovery and takes time.
    • Individual growth plans for leaders and their teams are as important as team training
    • Too often a well-designed growth plan ends up being ignored or forgotten
    • Make check-ins short and frequent to keep the individual’s attention on their plan
  • Product leaders are squashed between the exec, the product team and other departments
  • The product is the entire experience and the community
  • You need to put yourself in the shoes of customers and and stakeholders. Have empathy, think deeply about what they want and need.
    • You can use customer empathy techniques on stakeholders (interviews, personas, experience maps etc)
    • Experience Map example:
      image
    • Know who’s a roadblock, who’s a decision maker and develop strategies to deal with them
  • The importance of a vision can’t be understated:
    • A common vision connects decisions and activities. It aligns teams’ energy and attention. The challenge is clearly communicating that vision to everybody on the team such that they understand how they are contributing to it.
    • You need a passion for the things you’re doing, you need to define what you’re trying to do and how you’ll do it.

Chapter 3. Being a Great Product Leader

Management is about doing things right; leadership is about doing the right things Peter Drucker
  • Setting Product Principles
    • Articulate your product and design principles clearly.
    • Intercom example:
      • Think big but start small: Big vision but ruthlessly scope cutting so you can ship
      • Ship to learn: Ship ASAP to learn ASAP.
      • Design from first principles: start with a blank sheet of paper, don’t copy others
  • Setting a Product Vision
    • Be stubborn on the vision, it should take years to achieve.
    • A vision should be timeless
      • Don’t confuse an enduring mission with a temporal goal. Disconnect your future from time and trends
      • Disconnect your vision from the technology / methods you’ll use to achieve it
    • Be flexible on the details
      • Translate the vision into near-term goals in the form of OKRs (objectives and key results) and roadmaps.
      • OKRs and roadmaps can and should change as new information is received
      • OKRs and roadmaps are living documents, add appropriate caveats
      • how you get there will change
  • Over communicate the roadmap
    • Make it clear how the problem you’re solving moves you closer to the vision
    • Advocate for the vision, and remind everyone of it
  • Moving from Vision to Strategy
    • How does the vision translate into a roadmap?
    • Make sure your roadmap conversations are connected to the strategic goals
    • Get buy-in from stakeholders on the 4-6 strategic goals you want to accomplish during the year → then work with stakeholders to define the initiatives that will fit those strategic goals
    • Early collaboration is more productive than working in a vacuum
    • Translate the vision into specific product goals → that must be accomplished over the next year
    • Everything at Intercom is goal orientated, teams have team level goals at all levels of granularity (daily→ weekly→ quarterly)
    • Out of the goals come features for development
    • Product strategy is about how you attain the vision
      • Can be framed as a value proposition, include key feature areas or business goals
      • Strategy typically is a 12 month view
      • Roadmaps are often shorter, 6 months. Often maps problems → features → releases
  • From Strategy to Roadmap. Roadmaps help…
    • Provide focus → helps you understand what you won’t be giving attention to
    • Create alignment → getting the team to work toward the same goal
    • Priority → there’s knowing what to do, and when to do it. This isn’t a priority for us to be successful
    • Visibility → it can visualise pitfalls and opportunities
    • Coordination → helps with alignment across teams
  • What a roadmap isn’t:
    • It’s not a release plan → leave out dates and timelines
    • It’s not detailed → JTBD, user stories etc are too granular.
    • It’s It is not a commitment → just a guide
    • It’s not a Gantt chart → you can’t track dependencies at this level
  • A roadmap is an artefact that communicates the direction you’re going to meet the product vision.
    • Each team should have a roadmap → the decide how to contribute to the mission and move the metric they are accountable for
    • The roadmap is not what creates the value → it’s the process of understanding and negotiating that the team goes through → to own the problems and commit to solving them
    • Roadmaps are… a communication artefact, focused on the big picture, show the path you’re taking to fulfil the product vision.
  • No roadmap? You’ll likely try to do too many things, not as well
  • Focusing Themes on Customer Problems
    • Roadmaps are strategic, so talk in customer problems not features or solutions
    • Shifting a roadmap to themes can be incredibly powerful.
      • A theme is a promise to solve a problem → making learning about the customer / problem important. It gives teams permission to do discovery.
      • To solve a problem, you need to understand it
    • Simplifies the roadmap and the prioritisation process
  • Prioritising Goals and Strategic Activities
    • Don’t look for excuses to build the thing you want to build
      • Instead ask why is this the right time? Why is this important? What matters right now?
  • Prioritisation is best done through the lens of valuable, usable, feasible
    • Valuable and usable are customer-focused:
      • Is this valuable to the customer? enough so to be valuable to the business?
      • Is it delightful for the customer to use?
    • Feasible: can be built in a cost-effective manner → what is the cost to service and support it?
  • Managing the unknown
    • You won’t have all this information to hand → embrace ambiguity
      • split your focus between learning about your customers and building for them
    • form a hypothesis → validate it as quickly as possible through testing
    • Think in terms of bets → I bet that by doing X we’ll see Y
      • you don’t feel bad if your bet is wrong
      • can help encourage a culture of experimentation
    • If optimising an existing product → make small bets → and use A/B or multivariate testing
    • If betting on a new product → most build an MVP approach
      • BUT building MVPs is expensive
      • Instead → focus on learning → test the riskiest assumptions (RAT: riskiest assumption test)
        • Don’t build more than what’s required to test your largest unknown
  • Now, Next, Later
    • Now, next, later is a great way to introduce time to your roadmap
    • Dream in years, plan in months, evaluate in weeks, ship daily
  • Product Is a Team Sport
    • Lead your team by articulating the common goal
    • Provide the necessary context
      • e.g. customer problems, frustrations, competitive environment
    • Curate the right team → and provide an environment for success
    • Bring them user problems → facilitate conversations → help the team connect dots
    • Everyone in the company owns the product
  • Designing a product team
    • The experience your customers have is a direct outcome of the people you hire and the decisions they make
    • People only do what they want → so build a culture that influences those decisions in the right direction.
    • Align accountability by using small, independent, cross-functional teams
      • Give them full autonomy to discover needs and deliver products that solve them
    • Assign teams KPIs but give them total freedom to set their roadmap and execute
    • Have independent teams that sit together and have all the skills and tools needed to design, develop, test, and release their part of the product to production
  • Leverage chapters / guilds to share knowledge and experience across squads and tribes
  • Autonomy motivates teams, scales better and moves faster than top-down models
    • Make decisions based on customer outcomes not delivery efficiency metrics
  • Diversity
    • Diversity is an imperative.
    • Diversity in craft, technology, business; a mix of genders, creeds, and backgrounds; a mix of industry experience and product management experience; and a mix of skills, from the visionary to the detail-oriented, from the data-hungry to the user-research fanatics
    • your team represent your audience
    • diversity is the first line of defence against confirmation bias
    • create people soup
  • Eternal Optimism
    • Teams should be full of energy and curious
    • do both product discovery and engineering delivery
    • involve the team from id) ea to implementation
    • move from inflexible products, processes, and platforms to constant iteration and learning
    • don’t engage in ‘scrum theater’ (the illusion of productivity without the material impact)
  • Developing talent
    • All value creation in digital products comes from human capital.
    • Leaders must guide people in a way that’s valuable for the company and for them
    • Take responsibility for your team’s growth
    • Have growth and development conversation with their team members
    • Leave a vacuum of opportunity → and other things will start to fill that vacuum
    • Great talent won’t tolerate an unsupportive or silent leader
    • Designing people’s careers is frequently the best way to ensure that teams retain talent
    • People want to be challenged, recognised, and respected
    • To motivate employees we need to focus on:
      • Autonomy → Our desire to be self-directed. As we’ve shown, this increases engagement over compliance
      • Mastery → The urge to develop better skills.
      • Purpose → The desire to do something that has meaning and is important.
    • Start with why questions:
      1. What dreams and plans do you have for your life?
      2. Why these particular dreams and plans?
      3. What is the problem you are working to solve?
      4. Why is this a problem worth solving?
      5. What does it look like several years into your career?
      6. When you were an eight-year-old, what did you spend your time doing?
      7. Why do you think those activities were attractive to you?
      8. Can you describe those activities in detail?
      9. How are they connected to your current work or career path?
    • Build a vision for their future.
    • What hard work are they willing to do each day that get them closer to the outcomes you both seek?
    • Build a vision for a team member’s career that os disassociated from time, technology, and trends
    • Once set → work together to describe the steps required to get there
  • Developing soft skills is hard → you need to use a coaching approach where you focus on one skill at a time and coach the team member whenever that situation comes up
    • Coaching is most powerful right after it happens and you pull somebody aside
  • Balance Discovery and Delivery
  • There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency something that should not be done at all Peter Drucker
  • The biggest delivery challenge is deciding where to spend the resources you have, how to best align your resources to customer’s needs?
    • Just because a product is used, doesn’t mean it’s enjoyable or liked
    • Great product leaders spend the majority of their time focusing on discovery
  • It’s tempting to spend your time updating the UI and UX → as that’s easier than doing the work to understand the customer
  • Discovering the real reasons customers use your product → why they think it’s valuable
  • Discover for value and then deliver on that value
  • Use your product vision as a lens to focus your discovery
  • Use qualitative feedback from your customers to refine what you deliver
  • A picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth a thousand meetings
  • Making Discovery Part of Your Process
    • Make discovery a regular commitment, just part of the process → include it in existing rituals (stand-ups, retrospectives, etc)
    • Make a commitment to constantly learning and discovering what their customers value.
    • Just Enough Process
      • Ask these questions before selecting a process:
        • What is the process problem we’re trying to solve?
        • Do we really know if this is the right problem to be solving?
        • What assumptions have we been making that should be tested or validated?
        • How will we test a new process?
        • What’s our hypothesis?
        • What metrics will we measure to prove or disprove our hypothesis?
        • Who are we building a product management process for?
        • Will these proposed changes dramatically improve the value of what we are delivering?
        • Will these proposed changes make the lives of the team better or worse?
        • Are we considering these changes because of external pressure or because we can truly justify the improvements?
        • What will be affected if we add, change, or replace the current model?
        • If we chose to add, change, or replace the current model, what will be the best way to make this happen without losing good talent or disrupting the delivery of value to our customers?
    • Process means nothing without a great team. A mediocre process can be reformed into an excellent process by great people, just as a mediocre team can undermine even the best process. Choose the team first, and then decide what process amplifies their best efforts.
    • Having smaller, cross-functional, collocated teams that have autonomy to select the best process for their specific needs might be the best solution of all.
  • Communication and Constraints
    • Constraints (like deadlines) are unavoidable and necessary for growth and improvement
    • Communicate with care → train yourself to listen, to watch your words, and to consider the way they are received
    • Explain what the problem is to the team → let them solve it
    • Use the best possible language to empower them
  • Managing Politics
    • Depoliticise the work process → give teams superpowers to be successful
    • Help your team to amplify their impact
    • Share results with the organisation, good or bad

Chapter 4. Is There a Formula for Success?

  • Focus on the problem.
    • Smart people drift toward solution-orientation
    • Successful people think about the problem, understand it at a deep level.
      • Success is easy to articulate when you know what it’s like when a problem is solved
  • The best product managers focus on defining and prioritising problems, not solutions.
    • doing so creates a focus on the goal
    • doing so creates a focus on the user’s needs
    • doing so creates a need to do discovery, to understand the user (not jump to testing)
    • user stories and personas become rich, empathy improves
    • the team get better at finding solutions
    • avoids zeroing in on a single solution, allows more ideas to be put forward
    • once you have a most important problem, prioritisation and delivery become easier
  • Measuring Success
    • Spend time on defining the problem and success criteria.
      • What’s the problem?
      • How will we know what it’s solved?
    • Think about success in the short and long term.
    • Return usage, customer satisfaction and loyalty measures are important
      • top line figures can hide a lack of retention
    • Most metrics suffer from being a single point of measurement
      • Use several metrics in the experience to measure the outcome to drive your product strategy forward
      • Actionable, measurable, and time-bound metrics that balance the short term and the long term are the best practice by the world’s best practitioners
  • Measuring Success as a Problem-Solving Ability
    • Make sure your measure of success isn’t shipping, instead measure what impact you’re having on the customer
      • Work you ship must solve a problem and result in customers truly receiving value
    • Success is a function of a team’s ability to uncover problems and deliver a solution in a delightful and efficient way
  • Common Characteristics of Successful Product Teams
    • Lifelong learning
    • Actively seeking new information, insights, and understanding is a cornerstone to successful product management
    • Strong communication
    • Empathy
    • Diversity
    • Business savvy
    • Cross-functional representation
    • Collocation
    • Autonomy
    • Interdependence
    • Accountability
  • How to Identify Product Leaders
    • Plays well with others
    • Seeks challenge
    • Gets their hands dirty
    • Always acts and thinks “team first”
    • Is comfortable wearing lots of hats
    • Displays curiosity
    • Communicates well
    • Possesses selling skills
    • Has exceptional time management skills
    • Is a visionary
    • Shows equanimity/grace under fire
  • While making a list of ideal skills is easier than finding the person that exhibits all of them, we maintain that a majority of these would be present in a good product leader.

Chapter 5. Hiring Product Leadership

  • Hire a manager of one, great hires are able to manage themselves
    • that’s not to say you won’t give them support, give them support, guidance, and mentoring
    • but they won’t need to have their hand held
  • Add people that make your job, and the jobs of the other team members, easier.
    • Hire people that are going to produce a multiple of what others can produce
    • You get more bang for your buck hiring somebody who can do 2-3x of others, and they’re going to create less issues
  • Good product people understand that it’s a team sport
    • They should focus on the team, the customer and the environment the team works in
  • They should ask lots of questions
    • about the product, the market, and the business
    • about who they will be working with / the team
    • about your leadership style
  • Do they express empathy for others?
  • Don’t hire them if
    • they do all the talking and no listening
    • they talk over you and don’t listen
    • they are unprepared to show you their creative artefacts (previous products, portfolio, code, prototypes, experience maps, etc.)
    • If they can’t articulate why they would be useful to the team
  • Have too many interviews than too few
  • Check references
  • Get them to meet team members
  • Find people with leadership skills → train them to lead in the context of your organisation
  • Be curious about product management
  • Keep learning → educate yourself → understand what skills you have and where you need to improve
  • Create a detailed onboarding checklist for new starters
  • Timing for Hiring
    • Hiring isn’t always the solution. Can you train an existing team member? Or adjust the process?
    • Questions to ask:
      • Do we have someone who can clearly articulate the product vision and ensure it is executed correctly?
      • Are we missing growth or value opportunities because the current team is too focused on iterative adjustments or bug fixes and not on innovative improvements?
      • Is there product ownership?
      • Someone with final responsibility for delivery?
      • Are politics creeping into the process and derailing the work?
      • Is the team easily distracted by new ideas and feature requests?
      • Is there a clear path from discovery to delivery?
  • An apprentice program is a good way to feed your pipeline with high-quality candidate
    • giving APMs responsibility and ownership above their experience level or skill set provides them with a practical education that would be difficult for them to find anywhere else
    • Have people stretch themselves, see what they’re doing wrong, and make sure to course-correct along the way if necessary
  • Think about your talent needs months or years ahead
  • Becoming a product leader
    • The job that has less authority than it appears to have and requires the application of soft skills
    • Just because you have a title doesn’t mean you have authority
    • Work harder to develop the tools you need to do a better job
    • Focus on becoming influencers in your organisation
  • The move from IC to leader means you need to think beyond the product, and point your experience, empathy, communication, and problem-solving skills at the company and the team too
    • set them up for success
    • what can I do to make the people on my team successful?
  • Here’s a checklist for what it means to become a great product leader:
    • Do what leaders do, but be true to you
    • Articulate a clear vision and the path to get there
    • Protect your team (from distractions)
    • Create a process that delivers the best results
    • Optimise your tools, but don’t get bogged down
    • Be serious about customers
    • Be there when you’re needed, but otherwise stay out of the way

Part II. The Right Leader for the Right Time

Chapter 6. The Startup Organisations

  • Product leaders in startups are need to be skilled practitioners and team builders
  • Work out what you can do well → and invest in it further
  • All businesses are unique in their own way
  • Early stage startups are chaotic. Strategic plans tend to be ignored, if they exist at all, in the pursuit of tactical wins.
  • There is no legacy holding you back in startups, so making change is easy
  • Ask forgiveness, not permission. Speed is everything. Runway is short.
  • Early chaos subsides, and you need to hire generalists. Great for product people who like to wear many hats
  • Focus on removing obstacles and making decisions
  • Data only becomes a thing when more customers accrue → providing more evidence and chance for experimentation
  • Mature startups implement process, and metrics → they aline product, sales, and marketing
    • Product becomes more detailed, precise and considered
    • Acquisition costs and lifetime value become the order of the day
  • De-risking the future is a huge part of the product leader’s job in a startup
  • Engage with prospects, segment the market, target a narrow one
    • a focused segment is a counter balance to lacking time and money
  • Embrace operating in uncertainty
  • Ascribe metrics to what you can control → so you know if you’re actually making a difference
    • think of mitigations for what you can’t control
  • You need to manage tradeoff between setting a vision and working on the actual nitty-gritty
    • the nitty-gritty matters more early on
  • Spend enough time understanding the problem before they start trying to solve it
  • Always follow the number one problem. Focus on the #1 problem, not on the #2 or #3.
  • There’s no point in building a feature if you don’t know why you’re building it
  • Understand the problem you’re solving for both the customer and the company, and how they connect
  • Build time with customers or users into your weekly product cycles.
  • Develop a roadmap that outlines the core themes and priorities.
  • Using a lens like OKRs, the product vision, or other key metrics will help the team decide which things on the draft roadmap are worth executing
  • Research, gather data, and prototype until you understand the problem and can articulate a solution clearly and without doubt
  • Spend as much time upfront trying to gather information and data to guide your decision making and your requirements before you build anything.
  • In the beginning stages of a product, the best conversations focus on thoroughly understanding the problem that you’re trying to solve and whether that is a problem worth solving
  • Consciously making the time to listen is a skill we could all be better at
    • make a commitment to be the last to speak
    • say ‘tell me more’
    • repeat back phrases
  • Managing your team’s expectations
    • great leaders do not use negative expectations to motivate their teams
  • I have never really been successful with an adopted team
  • Figure out where you can add the most value.
    • What situations appeal to you?
    • Does an early-stage company suit your character and style?
  • The largest challenge for any organisation and any leader is aligning the vision with the day-to-day work
    • make everyone aware of the strategic vision and what it means to their tactical choices and decisions
    • Translate the vision into an experience map, roadmap, or product map
    • Don’t lose sight of the overall vision when working on tactical things like roadma
  • Communicating continuously
    • Work with stakeholders to understand their priorities and get buy-in
    • Involve them in defining the initiatives that will fit your strategic goals
    • engaging them co-creation that solidifies the vision and aligns the team
    • roadmaps are just the output of a conversation and an agreement
    • continuous communication needs to err on the side of over-communication
    • regularly and actively communicate to all parts of your product organisation, your users, and your outside partners
  • Playing the Customer to Discover Core Value
    • At times you might need to be the voice of the customer and suppress your subjective opinions and embrace the views of the customer without bias.
    • Getting to an understanding of your customer or user problem is critical to success
    • If its hard to create a roadmap, you’re probably not spending enough time with customers or doing enough discovery
    • By the time you’re talking to your 10th or 15th prospect, you can describe the problem to them
    • Don’t skip the research
    • Invest time and energy into knowing your audience and developing the personas to adequately describe them, this will reduce the ambiguity for the team
  • Once you understand the problem, and the solution you can decide on what the MVP will include or how it might be priced
    • overcome the ambiguity of what to build → by understanding your users
  • Making research accessible → get it into the hands of the team in digestible bits
    • It’s very rare that companies require enormous amounts of research to do basic validation of their product/market fit
    • Questions you need to answer before moving on with an idea
      • what their pain points?
      • what their current problems are?
      • how they try to solve those problems now?
      • how you might solve them differently?
    • Then go run that by them
    • Keep looping until you know whether you can solve those problems, and whether the customer would buy the solution
    • Then take the people that expressed interest in buying the proposed solution and refine that solution. Make a prototype. Get feedback until you’re clear on what the next version needs to do
  • Fight for prototypes to be used as a core part of the testing strategy
  • Which of the unmet needs will get the attention of the team?
    • There’s always tension between overall company priorities and the specific product priorities
  • Most people just want their idea heard and valued → create a carpark for them
  • Don’t avoid trade off decisions, acknowledge the reality and embrace them
  • To know what to prioritise, a leader must operate at the level of solving problems rather than at the level of functionality.
    • Ask the team… How can we solve this core problem in an efficient manner
  • Product leaders can learn some surprising things in research,
  • “How do we know if we’re successful? And do we agree on that?
  • Startup Product Teams
    • Regardless of the size of a company, small teams appear to work better than large teams
    • Do high level design as a group → but get more focused when you’re in the details
    • Facilitate and maintain agility of your teams
      • hire people who are respectful of one another and can adapt quickly
      • hire people that are well rounded, that can take on roles and expand beyond what they are hired to do
    • Don’t drag out the process looking for unicorns
    • Product people need to take all the noise and conversation and turn it into something they can execute on.
      • Bring it back in a way people feel heard but whilst focusing on the customer experience
  • How to filter, collect and communicate inputs:
    • Filter signal from noise by asking these questions:
      1. It is clear what the real struggle is? In other words, can you see beyond the noise and identify the real problem or pain?
      2. Can you discern whether that pain is something aligned with the vision and roadmap of the product or company?
      3. Does it need to be solved?
      4. Does the company need to solve this problem to achieve its goals? How urgent is this to delivering value to the customer?
      5. If urgent, then does the company have the resources to solve this problem right now? Or should we postpone it until later?
      6. If the resources are available, does this reinforce the value of the product? Or does this reduce the value?
      7. If it reinforces value, is that value easy to describe and communicate to the customer and product team? If not, why is it hard to describe? Is it just complicated or is it not aligned with the vision, brand, or roadmap?
  • Think about teams in terms of what their ambitions are → create an environment where they have something to look forward to
  • Provide a safe place → allow experimentation → results help people calibrate their intuition
  • Who will be the humans that delight in exchanging time, money, or energy for your solution? Have you really listened to them? Have you immersed yourself in their world to truly understand their pain

Chapter 7. The Emerging Organisation

  • Managing the growth of the team is now the key challenge
    • You shift from managing things to managing people
    • Communicate your principles and product management philosophy quickly and clearly to new recruits
    • New team members must understand that it is their job to know more than anyone in the company about their product area and its customers
    • Help new team members get a publicly visible win inside their first 90 days
  • Maintain a user focus
    • To be taken seriously, you need to back up your idea with facts and data
    • To scale a user base and maintain quality, you need to have a human-centred approach to design and development and prioritise the needs of your customers
    • Learn to be a servant leader → serve the customer’s needs not your ideas
  • Checking the Ego
    • Listening to your user reduces risk
    • Don’t lose sight of what the customer wants, as your product grows you’ll be forced to manage the numbers more closely (LTV, CAC etc).
    • Stay centred on the user, What is this product we’re making? How is it actually valuable?”
    • No value can be created in a commercial product venture without a customer
    • Connecting the dots between tech, experience, affordances, and interaction through the lens of the user or customer
  • Supporting transitional leaders
    • Practitioners need good hard skill, leaders need soft skills
    • You have to be more thoughtful about what you ship, and what you don’t. You start building product debt (burden of maintenance, service, and support, which causes you to get slower over time)
    • How to improve your communication skills:
      • Acknowledge personal bias
      • Practice active listening skills
      • Take the information from whence it comes (learn what’s important in other parts of your business, so your thoughts are not discounted when you share them).
      • Remove distractions (ban non-essential meetings)
    • Master relating, co-creating, and delivering with your team
  • Practical advice for transitioning leaders
    • How do you put a lens on the right ideas and the right feedback so that they get the attention they deserve?
    • Your product will require more day-to-day incremental fixes and improvements
    • Do you understand the vision clearly enough to communicate confidently to your team?
    • Establish a strategy behind your vision. Take the big-picture future and turn it into a path that will guide the team to that outcome
      • the vision is aspirational and the strategy is execution
      • don’t lump vision and strategy together, they are very different things
  • Execution Informs Vision
    • Leaders outline the high-level vision → practitioners execute it
      • there should be an adjustment loop to the vision, to accommodate insights from practitioners and customers
  • Building Teams
    • Near term can swallow everyone’s focus, resource your team and get help so they can see further out
    • Start building the a nucleus of two or three people
    • Build the team slowly to maintain quality, don’t lower the bar
    • Everyone has a great portfolio, but work out what they actually did. How they contributed.
    • Insert a practice task into your interview process → to cut through to what people can and can’t do, how they think, and where they choose to spend their time

Chapter 8. The Enterprise Organisation

  • Enterprise organisations need to innovate, build great products, and disrupt themselves before competition does
  • Customer expectations are increasing, as acquisition costs
  • Legacy systems are hard to maintain and upgrade
  • Enterprise organisations must avoid complacency after success
    • Success is the biggest inhibitor to future success
    • Avoid focusing only on incremental improvements, and losing sight of bigger opportunities
  • Recognise that you constantly need to challenge yourself → to see if what you’re doing is working. Should you be trying something else? Should you change?”
  • Allocating resources is challenging, it’s hard to know when to stop putting resources towards something, because it’s not as life-or-death as it is in a startup company
  • Maintaining Focus as You Scale
    • The pressures of growth and scale diffuse any hope of staying focused.
    • The hardest part of your job might be delivering value to existing customers while simultaneously growing existing or new markets
    • Ensure the organisation has at least one product that truly sets it apart
    • Your flagship should deliver massive value to the customer and the business, and drive publicity
      • Figure out which product opens doors and builds relationships with your customer base → and provides an entry point for other products
    • Learn to focus on the most interesting customer segment → not all customers are created equal
    • Conflicting business goals, competing priorities, localised performance measures, and success criteria constrain the rate of innovation.
      • Cohesion is a requirement. Are your customers getting consistent experiences, or are you shipping the seams of your organisation to them?
  • Some companies have their revenue-generating customers dictate their roadmap
    • They do this to hit annual growth forecast for the “beat and raise” model
    • Predictability around these metrics drives shareholder growth and value
  • Avoid sanitised data → speak to your teams and their customers. Get information from the source → ensures you make better decisions
    • Build a sensory network, inside and outside the organisation to stay in touch with your customers and the success of your product → get that information to the exec
  • Measure the right thing
    • Adobe used to measure only software packages sol
      • It didn’t look at adoption rates, usage, or customer satisfaction
      • It incentivised selling customers a new version as often as possible
      • On switching to cloud and subscriptions if focused on signups and renewals
  • How do you pick and choose which measurements to focus on and why those are meaningful?
    • Choose balancing metrics, you need both…
      • Performance-oriented numbers like revenue, ARR, and CAC
      • Quality or customer satisfaction numbers, such as LTV and NPS
  • Company Culture
    • Product leaders need to be able to influence, lead, and inspire both laterally and upward
    • Create the space for a customer-focused, iterative product-development function.
    • To effect change you need to present it in a way that the organisation understands
      • Link innovation to a growth strategy,
      • Align your plans to the business strategy
  • Communicating with Internal and External Customers
    • Treat everyone as a customer → both your internal teams and external customers
    • Adopt the servant leader mentality → focus on people’s growth and well-being
    • Make time for communication
    • The human element is essential
    • Data is essential, but people matter more
    • Direct contact with customers and users is by far the highest-value input
  • Get really interested in understanding how the customer is measuring success
  • On collaboration → champion connection over artefacts
    • Make everyone part of the creative process
  • Tap into internal sources of ideas → remove the ‘not invented here’ mentality
  • A 15-month roadmap recaps what we accomplished during the prior quarter → include what you delivered over the last 90 days
  • A portfolio approach lets you consider all the products in a holistic manner while assigning resources to each product according to its current stage and needs.
    • Create a record of everything you’ve tried. What was the project, what did you learn.
  • Take executives’ hands off the reins and introduce a level of autonomy within your company
    • Prototyping can be valuable to companies of almost all sizes
    • Use them to attract interest from customers and internal budgets

Part III. Working with Customers, Agencies, Partners, and External Stakeholders

Chapter 9. Mapping the Partner Ecology

  • Experience maps are a temporal display of the touchpoints and interactions between internal teams and customers → but you can also include partners
  • Look at which players in your network of providers and partners are giving or receiving value
  • If you work with an outside firms elevate exceptional communications to the primary objective → become partners
  • Finding Common Value
    • Use a Q deck to elevate the most important questions so the teams understand the purpose behind the work.
      • Why are we building this?
      • Why is it important?
      • Will it deliver value?
      • How will it deliver value?
      • How will the teams know they have been successful?
      • What happens if things go wrong?
      • How do we fix problems when we encounter them?
  • How do you know what is a priority if there is no communication product strategy?
    • Have a singular clear vision
  • Trust Is the Glue → building trust starts with making something together
    • Doesn’t have to be big → but build something together and you’re building trust
    • trust building is what makes relationships more valuable
  • Get clients to agree to giving access to their users
  • Get out of the building:
    • Ask real customers, or prospective customers, about their experience
    • Observe them using your product to solve their problems
  • When and Why to Use Consultants
    • Are you using these external teams to simply shore up their resources or to solve specific problems?
      • Think of consultants as a window to new insights, knowledge, or speed to market
      • Learn from an expert, not trial or error
    • hiring a consultant can be a great way to get an immediate injection of experience, help, and insight
    • Outside facilitation can be a catalyst to break out of an old habit or see a new perspective
    • When using outside talent → treat them like they are part of your own team. Invest time in getting on to the same page. Train them or onboard them if necessary. Make sure you are communicating on the same platforms and in the same channels and using the same tools wherever possible.
  • What does a website cost?
    • The lower end of the market is either
      • made up of unsophisticated buyers
      • restricted by a lack of funding
      • faced with a pile of commodity services all offering identical solutions
  • Working with outsider firms is inevitable, so it’s better to understand how to make the partnership work than pretend that your team can do everything alone.
  • It’s extraordinarily difficult to produce a great product if the scope is broad and the money is not there
  • RFPs aren’t helping anyone.
    • The outcome of an RFP process can indicate who was the cheapest or who had a pre-bid relationship or who ran the best pitch, but it cannot tell you who will be the best partner.
    • Internal budgets are generally constructed in a vacuum, so they reveal nothing about the actual cost of the work required to complete a project
  • Beware the wrong incentive. If you’re paying a consultant on the basis of time, then the consultant is incentivised to spend more time on the project.
  • Weigh strategic value versus cost. Determining the cost of the work is not the same as determining the value of the work.
    • How do we deliver value? We hire amazing people, and we create an environment where they can do the best work in their career.
  • Measure the value based on the equivalent effort of hiring all those people
  • Clients know how much they’re paying → that brings a level of urgency to both sides → creating a level of focus, and vision, and momentum that is often lacking internally
  • It’s very possible a leader will hire the external team while simultaneously recruiting for full-time
    • What is the immediate (3–6 months) need to get traction and momentum?
    • What is the medium term (6–18 months) going to require?
    • What will we need once we have a validated product and customers?
    • How will these phases overlap or run in parallel?
    • Can we use outside skills to solve tactical and strategic problems while building out the core team?
  • What to look for in a good product partner:
    • Do they ask questions about the team they will be working with?
    • Do they inquire about what makes the team good/interesting/productive?
    • Do they ask about your communication style and how you manage your team?
    • Do they express an understanding of your challenges?
    • Do they understand that producing great products can be difficult and frustrating, but still want to do the work?

Final Words

  • Make It Valuable, Feasible, and Usable
    • These core principles of product management infuse everything a product leader does.
  • Maintain a Learner’s Mindset
    • Be curious and have an appetite for new lessons is essential
    • Always be learning
  • Think Outside the Box
    • Leadership inspiration and lessons can come from the craziest places
  • Embrace Change
    • Value responding to change over following a plan
    • Embrace change to set up your team up with the flexibility to succeed
  • Stay Humble
    • You are not the CEO of your product.
    • You are not Steve Jobs.
    • You are only as good as your team, and setting them up for success and giving them the space to do their best is ultimately how you and your product will succeed.