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Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Guest Post: The Yin-Yang of Product Management — Market Sensing

Today’s post comes from Jim Holland. Jim’s passion is product management and product marketing. With over 20 years of technology industry experience, he has a fresh and current perspective in market sensing best practices, with significant experience defining and launching products in the application lifecycle, mobile, and enterprise software markets. Enjoy the post and don’t hesitate to tweet your comments to Jim directly.

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I am going through the steps of entering the blogging community with my own blog. Michael knows this and asked if I’d like to test that waters with a guest posting. As a product management leader, I have learned that everything great about product management starts with Market Sensing.

To me market sensing is more than market research or analysis, digging through data, customer call reports, sales requests or analysts notes. For me, Market Sensing is “a process of planning, discovering, organizing and internally understanding market insight to validate decisions based on real evidence and market need.”

Market Sensing is the balance and unification of a product’s beginning, life and success.

yin-yangTo illustrate the balance that each product manager should undertake, let’s compare it to the concept of Yin-Yang. Found in numerous cultures throughout the world, Yin-Yang represents the ancient Chinese understanding of how things work. The outer circle represents everything, while the two inner shapes within the circle represent the interaction of two energies, called yin often depicted in black and yang usually in white, which cause everything to happen. Just as things in life are not completely black or white, neither is product management and the leadership it provides.

Using this analogy, Market Sensing is the outer circle. Many product manager’s fixate on the outer circle and how or what a product should be. We treat products as if they require perfection to be accepted by the market. If not, we think it reflects on us and our inabilities. We chase elusive feature thoughts, and use gut instinct in its pursuit of perfection. In looking for answers, we often overlook or place a limited value on Market Sensing. Product management must acquire a Yin-Yang founded on Market Sensing. I believe there are two components that drive market sensing success.  One part is proactive, the Yin, and the other reactive, the Yang.

To create a Yin–Yang in Product Management, we have to balance the proactive and reactive elements of what we do each day. Some of the proactive processes I’ve used to keep the Yin in place include:

  • Customer interviews – are a great way to connect. Kristin Zhivago’s article on how to interview customers adds some insights that you may have forgotten.
  • Virtual focus and advisory groups – Here’s a list of the Top 10 Things to Do when conducting a virtual session.
  • Surveys – provide insight, but go a step further asking for real customer feedback. Ideascope is a great tool to capture, rank and prioritize what’s important to customers.
  • Win/Loss Analysis – if you do it well, it goes beyond all the sales stuff and gets to the heart of what a customer or non-buyer thinks. Stewart Rogers from Ryma has some great ideas.

As a reminder of the Yang, try to limit to the following:

  • Development generated requirements – are nice, but if you aren’t leading the development of all requirements as a product manager, someone else will.
  • Chasing Sales – if you are chasing the latest big deal, you’ll never win unless that’s your business model.
  • CEO epiphanies – if your boss says, “The CEO had a great idea on the way to the office.” Respectfully ask if the idea is founded on market evidence, and was validated by those in the daily commute.
  • Gut Instinct – as a product management leader, guessing, ideas, opinions, and other randomness won’t work. You need market-based insight and facts.

How can Product Manager’s and the leader do a better job at Market Sensing? By creating an approach similar to Yin-Yang.

As a leader in product management, it is your obligation to be the leader for sound decisions. Market Sensing best practices provide the foundation of sound decisions. Creating a market sensing process takes time and effort, both of which will pay dividends as you engage in your role as product manager and leader.

If you like the post, please comment. Until my blog www.marketsensing.com is launched, please tweet at Jim_Holland or drop me an email at hollandj[at]rymatech[dot]com. If you’d like to hear and see what I’ve shared in the past, please view Market Sensing – Anticipating Market Problems and Market Sensing 201 – What Processes Work for You?


The Product Management Perspective (as Mike would say): As the product manager who uses a balanced market sensing process, you will create and sustain products with a Yin-Yang like focus. It will amaze you as you create a new level of credibility internally, and confidently deliver to the market those products founded on real market evidence and information. Create and use your Product Management Yin-Yang as the foundation to strengthen your leadership.