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How product managers can prepare for success in a rapidly shifting work environment
This podcast will soon be known as Product Mastery Now. The name is changing, but the purpose is the same—helping product leaders and managers become product masters, gaining practical knowledge, influence, and confidence so you’ll create products customers love.
The future of work is changing for many people. We saw some changes accelerate as a result of the pandemic, and others have already been in motion. The changes will impact product managers and innovators.
Our guest, Matt Coatney, has studied the future of work as it is also related to his interests in the future of AI, automation, and other applications of technology. Matt has 25 years of experience bringing advanced technology products to market in a variety of industries and for some of the largest global organizations, including Microsoft, IBM, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Pfizer, Deloitte, and HP.
Use this discussion to help you consider how your work will change in the near future.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[3:56] What is broken about work?
As technology has evolved, it has made work easier, decreasing friction, but there’s a disconnect between changing technology and traditional corporations. Changes in technology are disrupting industries and, more importantly, changing the way we work, but large corporations are not set up to accommodate a world where technology is changing quickly. There’s a growing rift between management and employees. Engagement is at an all-time low, and job loyalty is not what it used to be. All these are symptoms that the underlying culture and systems need to be modernized for the world of the 21st century.
Many people love their job but despise the environment. We see a lot of people loving project work, but the rest of their organization isn’t in a project-based mindset.
[8:21] Your new book is titled The Human Cloud. What is the human cloud?
The Human Cloud encapsulates the new world of work. In the book, we discuss two main themes and how they impact the way we work:
- the freelance economy and shift to project-based work
- artificial intelligence and how technology is creeping into every part of our life
The Human Cloud is a visualization of a global cloud of people and devices that are all connected to accomplish an end. The cloud includes human and digital resources that you can tap into to do outsourced work.
In the past, freelance work and AI were low-value, but now top-notch professionals are choosing careers of freelance work, and there are new capabilities that didn’t exist 10 or 15 years ago. People are becoming more comfortable with using outside experts, and technology is making it more convenient and inexpensive to outsource work.
[14:00] What is a Changemaker, and how will Changemakers drive the future of work?
A Changemaker is an entrepreneur or intrapreneur who is leveraging their resources to create value. They’re growing themselves, their business, or their role in their company. They’re taking charge of their work, and their focus is to drive value. Taking ownership of your work is empowering and provides accountability. People aren’t born Changemakers; you can develop the Changemaker attitude and approach to work. While writing the book, we interviewed freelancers and found that they operate as a business of one. They constantly think about how they can add value and stop doing things that aren’t adding value.
We see tensions and dissatisfied employees when employees want to take ownership of their work but are in an organizational structure that doesn’t know how to let them do that. The 20th century corporate environment was very structured and hierarchical, which produced results but did not empower individuals or provide accountability. Many companies are still using those structures, but some companies are finding ways to work better. For example, one model assigns everyone to a pod that is working on a project. Once the project is finished, they’re reassigned. Each pod is given a mission, constraints, and a budget and then works independently to create value. The corporate structure is like a portfolio, managing projects, putting more bets on the projects that show value.
Reid Hoffman talks about the two types of roles in an organization. People in traditional management roles needs structure, rules, guidance, and certainty, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, when an entrepreneur is put in that environment, they rankle at it. Entrepreneurs work better in an environment where they are given freedom to complete a mission and add value, with a mindset of project-based work. We’re shifting toward project-based work, and the traditional infrastructure is still vital but becoming smaller.
[23:54] What should product managers do to prepare for this paradigm shift in work? How can they be Changemakers?
Changemakers are orchestrators. Focus on how you pull together resources to accomplish something. As technology and AI take over routine tasks, humans will be increasingly valuable as orchestrators. As a product manager, define the strategy and be laser-focused on execution—specifically define what execution looks like and ensure the product is executed and delivered properly. As you’re staffing your projects, you have more and more opportunity to pull in the right expert, although your competitors also have access to increased resources. AI is becoming increasingly cheaper, quicker, and easier to implement, and it will affect your products and user behavior. You don’t need a computer science or data science degree to be a product manager, but develop your analytical skills to understand causality, impacts, trends, predictions, etc., because work is very data-driven these days.
Action Guide: Put the information Matt shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Check out The Human Cloud on HumanCloudBook.com or Amazon
- Connect with Matt on LinkedIn
- Learn more about Matt on his website
“Move fast and break things.” – Mark Zuckerberg, in the early days of Facebook
“Move fast with stable infrastructure.” – Mark Zuckerberg, present day
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.