Hat tip: Good Product Team Bad Product Team

Good Product Team Bad Product Team

Pressed from
Posted by marty cagan on June 13, 2014 with a hat tip to 
Ben Horowitz’s classic Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager 

“Good teams obsess over their reference customers. Bad teams obsess over competitors.”

I’ve had the extremely good fortune to be able to work with many of the very best technology product teams in the world. People creating the products you use and love every day.  Teams that are literally changing the world.

I’ve also been brought in to try to help with companies that are not doing so well.  Startups racing to get some traction before the money runs out.  Larger companies struggling to replicate their early innovation.  Teams failing to continuously add value to their business.  Leaders frustrated with how long it takes to go from idea to reality.  Engineers exasperated with their product owners. 

Read more >> Good Product Team Bad Product Team.

The Future of Product Management

I came across this recent blog which made me realize just how good our whole product team has it next week at the Pragmatic Marketing training. Sure we share our thoughts, ideas, strategies all day long and then at 30,000 feet in Monday huddles, but having the same tools and education ought to make the team unstoppable!

Here is an excerpt from Lauren Maddeo’s post, click on the link below to read the extensive and well written project management article.

– Product managers make the most crucial decisions in any tech company today. Yet despite all the advances in software innovation, the product management discipline is still immature. Without the right tools, education, and guidance, product managers are flying blind.

via The Future of Product Management.

The Decision Matrix – A Product Manager’s Tool

Product Manager's Decision Matrix

Over the years of managing projects I have learned that sometimes a decision needs to be made from a set of options that are all good choices. This is why I find the decision matrix to be one of the most helpful tools in assessing options. The decision matrix assigns weight to each solution characteristic and asks you to evaluate how much each option contributes to that characteristic on a numerical scale of 1 to 5. The image below shows you how a decision matrix would be used.

Product Manager Decision Matrix

To run through it quickly, it is important to assign a higher weight to the characteristics that are most important. In this case the product revenue is more important than number of products launched (here called front list regarding publications), which was more important than the project managers opinion, or better know as experience score.

It goes like this: Assign a score to each option. Multiply by weight and total each option in the last box. In this example two decisions have weight the same. Conditional formatting is used to make the total more visual – note that these are possibly all good options.

The decision matrix, as in this case, may produces options that do not differ much from each other. Once you study the chart you will understand why this is helpful when you need to explain your choice. In this example, after some additional discussion with the sales team, option 4 was chosen, which has equal weight to option 1. The decision matrix allows for a much better answer when the boss asks, “Why did you choose an option that reduces product that will be launched?” And you can say, with more wisdom and foresight, that while option 4 would clearly lowered new product releases this year, the fit with the product strategy and projected increase in this year’s revenue, along with other insight contributed from the sale team, made option 4 clearly the best viable solution.

In this example a choice was made between two equal scoring options. Sometimes you may choose a lower scoring option when it is a more viable solution.

Remember, the decision matrix is a tool that helps you make better decisions. The option you ultimately choose is the option that you, with insight and collaboration with cross-functional teams, believe will have the most significant impact on a decision.

The product master plan – a product base camp

Product Master Plan
  • Product manager needs a unified plan of record for the product for which they are responsible
  • The product master plan houses all product documentation
  • It is a knowledge base that remains constant inside an organization while people come and go

One of the biggest challenges for any product manager when they begin a job is to find documentation to which you can refer in order to find out what was going on inside the project you inherited. You know that it can take weeks to months to get critical information together. In some cases there is little to no documentation to be found. I believe that first action when you enter your new position is to create a product master plan – a base camp. It is the one place all members of the cross-functional team can go to understand the product or product line. Make sure it is located in a shared location that they can easily access it. With this carefully build and tended document camp, all products activities can be quickly started by accessing existing research and knowledge. This is how products continue to drive revenues for the business well after the members have move onto the next camp. Keeping it in order will be well remembered and appreciated for the next team.

A product master plan:

  • is not the strategy
  • it serves as a mirror to the past, a bookmark for the current situation, and a roadmap to the future
  • it is a living, evolving collection
  • it is always being updated, but never discarded
  • it is not a deck of presentations slides
  • think of it as a binder
  • it is a perfect communication platform among cross-functional teams

The value of a product master plan cannot be overemphasized. It is the heart and soul of everything related to the product. It captures the complete work efforts of a product team and is what holds together the cross-functional product team.

The diagram below can be used as both idea creator and binder organizer. It should adapt and grow to serve the needs of your product and cross-functional team.

product master plan

product master plan

Here is a sample of the product master plan organized into folders.

product master plan structure

Do you have a product master plan to share? Leave a link to your plan in the comments or retweet this post with #productmasterplan.

Why Germany Dominates the U.S. in Innovation – HBR

I recently came across this article and pulled the bullets below. Most interesting is the last line in bullet 3. It is a topic that I often spin scenarios around and though I would “Press This” to my readers. As an American living in Munich I am often asked why I chose to live here. This article highlights some of the reasons. The Alps being one of the other ones.

Enjoy. The full link to the article is below.

Three factors are at work here:

  • Germany understands that innovation must result in productivity gains that are widespread, rather than concentrated in the high-tech sector of the moment. As a consequence, Germany doesn’t only seek to form new industries, it also infuses its existing industries with new ideas and technologies. For example, look at how much of a new BMW is based on innovation in information and communication technologies, and how many of the best German software programmers go to work for Mercedes-Benz. The U.S., by contrast, lets old industries die instead of renewing them with new technologies and innovation. As a result, we don’t have healthy cohesive industries; we have isolated silos. An American PhD student in computer science never even thinks about a career in the automobile industry — or, for that matter, other manufacturing-related fields.
  • Germany has a network of public institutions that help companies recombine and improve ideas. In other words, innovation doesn’t end with invention. The Fraunhofer Institutes, partially supported by the government, move radical ideas into the marketplace in novel ways. They close the gap between research and the daily grind of small and medium-size enterprises. Bell Labs used to do this in the United States for telecommunications, but Fraunhofer now does this on a much larger scale across Germany’s entire industrial sector.
  • Germany’s workforce is constantly trained, enabling it to use the most radical innovations in the most diverse and creative ways to produce and improve products and services that customers want to buy for higher prices. If you were to fill your kitchen and garage with the best products that your budget could afford, how much of this space would be filled with German products such as Miele, Bosch, BMW, and Audi?

Why Germany Dominates the U.S. in Innovation – HBR.

MAY 27, 2014

The 3 Minute Technique for Brainstorming Your Startup’s Product Roadmap

The 3 Minute Technique for Brainstorming Your Startup’s Product Roadmap.

The 3 minute techniques surfaces three potentially interesting avenues for a product’s future development.

First, it helps a product team explore how the product’s scope might expand to include the tasks a user currently performs immediately before or after using the current product. Broadening a product’s feature set to include adjacent activities should increase engagement and ultimately retention.