Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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How to manage time effectively

A common response—when you ask somebody for their help or their input—is “I don’t have enough time.” This is an interesting response given that we all have the same amount of time – 24 hours in a day.

When someone doesn’t have enough time it usually means they are focused on something at that moment and don’t want (or feel it’s worth their time) to stop what they’re doing and help you. They don’t have any ‘white space’ at the moment.

Manage Time Continue reading

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How can leaders use 360-degree feedback to boost employee engagement?

Guest post by Steve Brown

One of the popular approaches to improving performance and employee engagement is to set up 360-degree reviews. With this process, a person gets feedback from their peers, as well as their manager. Management people also get feedback from the people who report to them. The fact that you receive performance feedback from many directions is why it’s termed 360-degree feedback. While many companies have achieved good results with this system, others have failed. Here are some steps for understanding and using 360-degree feedback effectively. Continue reading


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Lean startup, lean company

“I explained the theory of the Lean Startup, repeating my definition: an organization designed to create new products and services under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” This definition comes from Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses.

As the title indicates, the book’s content is geared towards people starting new businesses. While that is the primary focus, what I found extremely interesting about The Lean Startup was the number of action items that work equally well for established companies as they do for startups. Innovation is innovation, no matter where it’s applied and regardless of its source.

The Lean Startup delivers a lot of great insight for leadership and product management. Here are some of the things that struck a chord with me:

  • Success can be learned: Successful startups and great new products aren’t just luck. You can put processes in place that will greatly increase the chances for success. “Startup success can be engineered by following the right process, which means it can be learned, which means it can be taught.”
  • Five key principles: The book focuses on five key principles:
  1. Entrepreneurs are everywhere: “The concept of entrepreneurship includes anyone who works within my definition of a startup” (see above).
  2. Entrepreneurship is management: “A startup is an institution, not just a product, and so it requires a new kind of management specifically geared to its context of extreme uncertainty.”
  3. Validated learning: “Startups exist to learn how to build a sustainable business.”
  4. Build-Measure-Learn: “The fundamental activity of a startup is to turn ideas into products, measure how customers respond, and then learn whether to pivot or persevere.”
  5. Innovation accounting: “This requires a new kind of accounting designed for startups—and the people who hold them accountable.
  • Pivot or persevere: The Lean Startup method helps you decide when you need to keep going with an idea or make a change (‘pivot’). “Through this process of steering, we can learn when and if it’s time to make a sharp turn called a pivot or whether we should persevere along our current path.”
  • Build an “innovation factory:” I cannot over emphasize this point: the Lean Startup method works for all companies. “Established companies need to figure out how to accomplish what Scot Cook [founder of Intuit] did in 1983 [he found out people wanted to use their computers to keep track of their check books], but on an industrial scale and with an established cohort of managers steeped in traditional management culture.”
  • Continual learning: A key to success is the ability to learn as you go and make adjustments along the way. “Validated learning is the process of demonstrating empirically that a team has discovered valuable truths about a startup’s present and future business prospects.” Ries gives a detailed personal example of this concept from his work at IMVU.
  • Don’t capitulate: Don’t just give in to what customers think they want. “We adopted the view that our job was to find a synthesis between our vision and what customers would accept; it wasn’t to capitulate to what customers thought they wanted or to tell customers what they ought to want.”
  • Ask hard questions: In every venture you need to ask ‘why am I doing this?’ “The question is not ‘Can this product be built?’ The more pertinent questions are ‘Should this product be built?’ and ‘Can we build a sustainable business around this set of products and services?’” Push your team to answer four questions:
  1. Do consumers recognize that they have the problem you are trying to solve?
  2. If there was a solution, would they buy it?
  3. Would they buy it from us?
  4. Can we build a solution for that problem?
  • Solve problems: In every effort, make sure you’re solving problems. “Success is not delivering a feature; success is learning how to solve the customer’s problem.”
  • Create, then test: Create a ‘minimum viable product’ (MVP) then test to make sure you’re on the right track. “The MVP is that version of the product that enables a full turn of the Build-Measure-Learn look with a minimum amount of effort and the least amount of development time.”
  • Fail quickly: The most successful companies recognized what worked and more importantly, what didn’t work. “What differentiates the success stories from the failures is that the successful entrepreneurs had the foresight, the ability, and the tools to discover which parts of their plans were working brilliantly and which were misguided, and adapt their strategies accordingly.”
  • Genchi Gembutsu: This is a Japanese phrase usually translated as a directive to “go and see for yourself.” You need to get out of the office. “You cannot be sure you really understand any part of any business problem unless you go and see for yourself firsthand.” You need extensive contact with potential customers to understand them sufficiently.

The Lean Startup is replete with stories and real-world examples to help you grasp the concepts. Eric Ries does a great job of bringing out important theories and models that will help you succeed whether you’re starting a new company or creating new products at an established corporation.


The Product Management Perspective: Every product manager in the world should study The Lean Startup and apply its teachings in day-to-day work and strategic planning. Unfortunately product managers get so embroiled in plans and stories and PRDs that we don’t stop and evaluate what’s really going on with the products.

A Good share of development is now done using some form of Agile. Make the effort to be agile in product definition and customer input. Don’t be too prideful to throw away your great idea that customers don’t latch onto. Put your focus and efforts into growing your products’ market share and revenue. Ultimately, nothing else really matters.


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Lead on Purpose makes Alltop

One of the first blogs that first caught my attention was How to Change the World by Guy Kawasaki. He is one of the foremost thought leaders on entrepreneurism and getting funding through venture capital. He’s also a successful author and entrepreneur himself. A while ago Guy started Alltop, web site that is “an online ‘magazine rack’ of popular topics.” The site has allows you to search for blogs based on topics. “Pick a topic by searching news category or name, and [they’ll] deliver it to you 24×7.” For each blog listed, the five most recent posts appear as links. It’s a great resource to find out what people are saying about your favorite topics.

The Lead on Purpose blog is fortunate to appear under two of the Alltop topics: Leadership and Product Management. It is in great company on both pages. Special thanks to Stewart Rogers for getting it on the Product Management page (still not sure how it made it to the Leadership page, but won’t look a gift horse in the mouth).


The Product Management Perspective: The Product Management page on Alltop provides a window into the thought leadership of the industry. It’s a great resource for all of us.


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Visual thinking

Much has been written about making things more complex than needed. I’m a fan of simplicity (though I don’t profess to be very good at it). One of the best ways to simplify things (e.g. designs, presentations) is with pictures…the right pictures. Guy Kawasaki, a leading entrepreneur and VC thought leader, shares this post on the art of visual thinking. He says:

The more slides and pages that you need to explain your business, the less likely you will succeed. Truly, the best pitches and plans require nothing more than one page or a picture to explain them.

We (product managers, etc.) will do well to follow Guy’s advice to use more visual thinking in presentations and other product deliverables.