Does your organization use analytics in your decision making? How have analytics affected your product planning? Here’s an insightful infographic from Nalpeiron that brings an interesting perspective to the value of analytics for Product Management: Continue reading
No matter what you are facing in life right now, there are things for which you can (and absolutely should) be grateful. Showing gratitude to others helps you see the world as a better place and move forward more effectively during the tough times. You should be thankful for the people who make your life better. Albert Schweitzer said it well: “Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.”
Leaders know their success depends on the united efforts of others. Showing gratitude will make you a more effective leader and will strengthen you in the following ways: Continue reading
Why are you in business? What drives your daily activities—your long-term vision or making the numbers this quarter? If you’re a board member, do you incentivize your executives to make a long-term contribution for the company or to keep the shareholders happy this quarter? If these questions cause you any discomfort, your priorities might be out-of-line with your core values.
In a recent interview with McKinsey & Company, Bill George—Harvard Business School professor and former Medtronic CEO—said the following: “Anyone who’s willing to postpone the long-term strategies to make the short-term numbers is in route to going out of business.”
In the full interview—Bill George on rethinking capitalism—Mr. George discusses important topics including insisting on the long term, managing expectations and creating lasting value. I recommend you spend a few minutes listening to Bill’s interview; it’s well worth your time.
The Product Management Perspective: One of the key aspects of product management is creating a long-term vision for a product/portfolio. Some are uncomfortable putting too much effort in looking to the future because things change. The core of this discomfort is not so much that things might change, as it is that they will be perceived as being wrong.
Don’t let the possibility that you’ll be wrong stop you from looking towards the future. Regardless of whether you end up right or wrong (or anywhere in between), the efforts you put into planning for the future will pay off. You will learn things you would have missed had you not tried. Be the leader—the CEO—of your product and create a long-term vision of how it will create value for your customers.
Guest post by Mary Prescott
I’m sure you’ve heard statements like these before:
“My team is exceptionally strong. They seem to be doing well”
“We’ve been improving. It’s hard to quantify, but I am sure we are getting there”
While you might hear these statements from any manager, they all have one thing in common: the lack of specificity. How strong is the team? How do you know that they are doing well for a given time period? How exactly – and based on what specific parameters – is your team improving?
Organizations need good managers and exceptional leaders (at all levels of your business). McKinsey Insights’ Pankaj Ghemawat references a survey of senior executives where 76% of them feel they need to develop global-leadership capabilities, but only 7% of feel they are doing so effectively.
Define Your Metrics
To measure or not to measure: that’s not even a question anymore. If you do not measure, you don’t get anywhere. It’s unproductive to begin without knowing what you want and how to measure your progress. Starting from your own performance metrics, you have to extend individualized and group metrics for your team. A research paper titled Metrics: You are what you measure by John R. Hauser and Gerald M. Katz from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, notes that metrics are in use everywhere, but if the organization uses the wrong metrics, they will not achieve the expected results.
Define the right metrics to measure individual goals and collective goals of the team. These ought to fall in line with the overall goals of the company.
Define. Create. Measure. Perform. Measure again.
Test your management strategies
How are you managing your team? The only way to know for sure is to test your ideas.
For instance, you might have a hypothesis that sales teams can work better when they meet clients and present their pitches with visual aids using mobile devices such as tablets. How do you know for sure?
Test your hypothesis: pick two groups of sales teams and allow one team to use sales aids such as laptops and tablets. The other group goes without any of these aids. Measure performance of both the groups. If the former group performs better, you’ll know that your hypothesis is right.
Find out if your decisions, plans, and strategies work first before deploying them.
It’s experimental. It’s a work in progress. That’s why most managers don’t risk doing it.
Dig into your data
What comes off from data might not give you the complete picture. It could seem obvious but if you dig deeper, more revelations will surface.
Depending on your goals — and the goals of your business — your data must serve to give you what not’s so obvious. Good managers see what’s not visible from data at “first look”. For instance, your customer satisfaction surveys could reveal that your customers buy X only so that they can avail a discount on Y. Meanwhile, you assumed that product X was a winner. Clearly, it isn’t.
While you assumed that your target audience was largely male, your sales records show that the majority of buyers were female. Have you been targeting the wrong base?
Peel off the “obvious” information from data and you’ll be able to align your business goals better.
Management isn’t just about goals
It’s easy to lose sight of “people” thanks to the inordinate focus on specifics, business goals, projects, and deadlines.
While efficiency and performance are certainly key inputs for effective business processes, it’s still people that you’d have to manage. Individual members of your team could have personal problems, friction points, and many other human elements that you’ll need to address.
Don’t lose sight of the people in the team. Take care of your team and the goals will fall into place.
Trust your guts
If management was only about making decisions based on all the measurements, numbers, statistics, analytics, and performance reports, almost anyone could be a good manager.
Sometimes, management is about guts.
When Bob Lutz’s guts made him leap into action to create what is today’s Dodge Viper, there were many naysayers. After a $80 million investment, Chrysler managed to create an outrageous sports car which was selling at $50,000. The sales team swore that no one would buy it. Yet, the Dodge Viper was a smashing success changing Chrysler’s image overnight.
The story repeats – in other industries – with the Steve Job’s iPhone, for instance.
The stories are everywhere. While you can’t depend on your gut for every decision, it surely plays a vital role in separating ordinary managers from the amazingly successful ones.
Mary Prescott is working as a community manager at WorkZone – A web-based project management software company. She is @MaryP_WZ on Twitter. When she’s not working, you’ll find her reading fiction or hiking with her dog.
The Product Management Perspective: Measuring product performance can be difficult, and it’s not a common practice for many product managers. However, the more specific you are about your products’ performance, the better your team members will understand their role its success. Focus not only on building great products, but also on ways you can measure your progress more successfully.
You get results based on the things you focus on most intently.
Most people are driven to increase their performance and expand their abilities. They understand the need to work hard in areas for which they have great passion.
Regardless of how many things you want to accomplish, you must focus on the most important and let other things — which in the right context may be very good things — go by the wayside. Tom Peters sheds an interesting perspective on focus with the following quote:
Leaders focus on the soft stuff — people, values, character, commitment, a cause. All of that was supposed to be too (indefinable) to count in business. Yet it’s the stuff that real leaders take care of first. That’s why leadership is an art, not a science.
Focus on what you want to achieve. The results will speak for themselves.
The Product Management Perspective: Product management takes complete focus. Recently a friend told me his company’s CEO decided that their engineering managers would also be responsible for product requirements and roadmaps. Their (few) ‘product managers’ will only focus on marketing their products.
It’s never easy to predict how things will turn out in the future, but if I were a betting man I would NOT bet on this move. They will lose focus on what the product means to the market/people who use it. For a product to succeed, you need to have someone—a product manager—completely focused on its success.
Several years ago I wrote that you can’t fake leadership. Becoming a leader requires a careful combination of confidence and humility. Leading an organization requires focusing intently in key areas. Successful leaders lead with their eyes wide open.
In my “day job” as a product manager I create software products that help companies fight against internal fraud. I was recently given the honor of publishing an article in Wired Innovation Insights—Blinders at the C-Level Can Cost You Billions—which discusses the perils of the “not-in-my-company” attitude, and the importance of incorporating active risk-management strategies to mitigate the insider threat. Though it focuses mostly on insider fraud, the article has valuable lessons for all leaders about focusing on the right things and not getting blindsided by the vulnerabilities your organization faces.
You can’t fake leadership, especially if you’re wearing blinders!
The Product Management Perspective: One of the best ways product managers can avoid getting caught with their blinders on is to proactively listen to your customers.
For too many companies, business-to-business (B2B) customer engagement is dismally low. In most cases the people running the business don’t recognize the disengagement and don’t see it as a problem.
In his article B2B’s Win by Building Relationships, Not Selling on Price, author Marco Nink gives the following insight on the importance of building customer relationships:
Competing on price is a losing strategy, and Gallup research shows it’s an unnecessary one. B2B companies are more likely to be successful and secure in their customer relationships if they help their customers succeed. The more a B2B company helps its customers perform, the more essential it becomes. That kind of customer impact transforms B2B companies from vendors into vital partners.
To make a difference for your customers you need to help them improve performance and achieve their goals. Building solid relationships will not only help customers improve their performance, but will also increase their commitment to you. Listen to their feedback and build connections with the factors that drive their business.
Here are three simple tools that great leaders use to improve their working relationships:
- Listen: Leaders let other people talk and they pay attention to what they’re saying. They remove anything that would distract from their conversations and focus on what people are trying to convey.
- Understand: They appreciate what other people do and value their feedback. They know that taking the time to understand where people are coming from will pay dividends in the long run.
- Acknowledge: Leaders acknowledge the contributions of others. They are quick to give credit to others for their successes. They know that customers will be more motivated to use their products and provide value if they acknowledge their contributions.
Are you building effective relationships with your customers?
The Product Management Perspective: To effectively lead the product development efforts, product managers must build meaningful relationships with their customers. Listen to them, learn from them, put their feedback into the appropriate context, then move forward and make decisions that will improve the value of your products.