A conversation of insights for product managers
This is our 300th episode. The podcast started in January 2015, and we have not missed a week. Thank you so much for listening and for sharing it with others! The purpose of the podcast has not changed—to better equip product managers and leaders for more success. Some Everyday Innovators have shared how listening has helped them—doubling their salary, finding a new job after not interviewing for many years, moving to a different industry, gaining a better appreciation of customers, and more.
To mark the 300th episode, I asked past guest Steve Johnson to join me for a completely unscripted, off-the-cuff discussion. We had no specific topic or questions in mind, and the result is a free-flowing discussion about changes with product management we are seeing and changes we want to make.
I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we did making it.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
Why product managers are important
- This has been an interesting year for business. Companies are re-thinking product management.
- Throughout the challenges, organizations have realized a couple of things:
- They really need product managers. They’re embracing product management as a repeatable, sustainable function to keep their products going.
- They need to optimize their team. There has been a lot of chaos, caused by confusion about the role of product management.
- Companies should prioritize projects or new features based on…
- value for the customer.
- value for the business.
- Sometimes a new feature will not provide good value to customers and may even distract them. We might like to polish our products, but we shouldn’t waste resources or create distractions.
- Creating value for the customer will return value to the organization.
- Assuming all possible features are valuable to the customer, a feature that creates more business and increases profitability is a better outcome.
- The Lean Canvas is a tool to help product managers prioritize projects. It’s focused on creating a product and identifying the customer, the customer’s problem, and the solution you could provide. It helps you compare projects and choose one or two to accomplish with the resources you have.
Customer discovery and the role of product managers
- Many organizations have too many ideas. Before describing possible solutions, spend time doing discovery, personally talking with possible customers. Before prioritizing, get commitment from leadership. Only then, flesh out the canvas and begin development.
- If product managers are involved in development, they must also be preparing for launch and market. Release is the end of development, but launch is the beginning of marketing.
- Companies must be judicious about selecting projects—they may have many good ideas, but must figure out which one or two they need to get to first to create the most value for the customer and the business.
- Product ideas should be:
- supported by evidence, not just someone’s pet project.
- something customers are willing to pay for.
- feasible for the business.
- The product manager generates ideas by talking to customers. Then the company needs to prioritize what they’re going to do, get the ideas to the developers, and then to the salespeople and ultimately the customer.
The magic wand
- If you had a magic wand that could change an organization, what key thing would you do to improve product management?
- Steve’s answer: I wish product management were recognized as a profession. People aren’t clear about what product managers are supposed to be. Scrum and Agile say that product managers are sitting next to developers all day, but somehow also have to be aware of what’s going on in the market. We need a product management degree and a professional definition of product management.
- Chad’s answer: We need to spend more time with customers. You can’t do product management if you don’t spend time with customers. Based on research, 30% of a product manager’s time spent with customers is ideal. I know very few product managers who spend that much time with customers. But spending time with customers is where ideas come from. It’s how we understand the customer problem, how we drive innovation. It’s the deeper understanding that sets really great companies apart.
Action Guide: Put the information Steve shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.