Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


From idea to strategy

Every product and service we have today was once an idea. Even the most basic items did not exist before someone (or ones) came up with an impression of a product or service that would be useful in some way. When you stop and think about it, the number of incredible products and services available today is truly amazing. In many cases, these great products have developed into product lines, companies and even industries. All from one idea.

Ideas need development to become strategies. The development of ideas is not an easy undertaking. In fact, most of the great ideas took a long time and a lot of hard work to develop into the useful products they are today. This is the primary responsibility of product managers.

Yahoo’s new CEO Carol Bartz has shown the need to drive ideas to strategies from the highest levels of the company. In the Fortune article Yahoo’s taskmaster, John Fortt describes Bartz as one who has “shown she can jump-start ailing companies.” At Autodesk (where she was CEO for 14 years) she delivered annual sales growth of 13% and increased the stock value more than eight times. She’s accomplished this through, among other things, focusing on product management:

Bartz transformed Autodesk through a series of smart acquisitions and by encouraging new product development. Autodesk’s software and applications became must-have tools for designers and manufacturers alike, thanks to Bartz’s insistence that the company methodically roll out new features based on customer feedback.

She also wants to prevent more space debris [Bartz’s term for ailing products] from launching in the future. ‘Yahoo was amateur hour in the past when it comes to product management,’ she bluntly told business partners last month; groups haphazardly released things without a clear sense of whether customers wanted them. From now on, she has promised, products will arrive on a schedule so that customers can offer feedback, with the best ideas appearing in the next version – a formula that worked well for her at Autodesk.

So how do you go from idea to strategy? One step at a time. This topic is, of course, way too broad and deep for one blog post. I’ll leave the deeper discussion to the many books and blogs written on the subject. The point is to get you thinking about the ideas you have and hopefully encourage you to do something to develop them.

The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager, you share responsibility to develop ideas into strategies. You have a great opportunity to become the strategic link from nascent ideas to full-blown product lines. Never discount your ability to make a major difference in your organization. I recommend Stewart’s blog for more details on becoming a strategic product manager.

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Blog update

Several weeks ago I ran across The Tuned In Calculator, a tool developed to grade blogs (and webs sites with RSS feed) on how tuned in they are to their audiences. It was developed based on principles promoted in the book Tuned In and scores sites on a 0 – 10 scale based on the language used on the blog. The more “I, we, me” focused language the lower the score. The more “you, your, their” and otherwise customer-focused language used, the higher the score.

After rating my blog with the calculator, and comparing them to others I read regularly, I decided it was time for an update. Consequently, over the past weekend I updated the About page to more clearly state the blog’s focus. I also added a more complete personal biography to give you a better idea who I am what drives me. I also added a Resources page and a Contact link. These new resources will more clearly set the focus moving forward.

I want to call out a few of the bloggers’ biographies from which I picked up ideas: Jeff Lash, Art Petty, Peter Ganza, Kirk Weisler, Dr. Paul Jenkins, Steve Johnson, Ivan Challif, David Meerman Scott, Stewart Rogers and Gopal Shenoy.

My blog has posts focusing on leadership and others directed at product management, with a number that focus on both. Moving forward it will continue to focus on leadership principles that are generally applicable, with a new summary feature called The Product Management Perspective, where I will apply the principles directly to product management.

Disclosure: As you’ll see in my bio, I’m now working with Ryma as a Product Management Consultant and now have a working relationship with Peter Ganza and Stewart Rogers. While I’m confident the ideas expressed in this blog are in concert with the Product Management View, the views and opinions are mine and the Lead on Purpose blog is independent.