Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


Leading product strategy and execution

Building software platforms and applications that customers love, and will recommend to their peers, takes extreme focus and hard work. There are many moving parts to product success, including understanding your market and the problems customers in the market face, and building solutions that solve those problems.

Successful product leaders understand the value of both strategy and execution: Strategynecessary for building products that perform well into the future. Execution requires the focus and discipline to do things now for near-term product releases.

How do you succeed in both of these two seemingly dissimilar aspects of product management?

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How to create product vision

One of the key elements of a successful product management organization is creating the vision for your products—the ‘why’ that drives their purchase and the factors that make them successful in their markets. When you nail the product vision, you’re well on your way to business success.

So how do you create product vision?

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How to shift the competition

Successful business leaders thrive on competition. They’re at their best when contending for the top customers in high-end markets. They may feel that if they’re not in the middle of a cut-throat battle with competitors, they must not be succeeding.

Do these statements represent your approach to business? While much as been written about competition and businesses that have been highly competitive and won, in reality, some of the most successful companies have won using very different techniques. They have changed the way they do business. They have made a shift to the blue ocean.

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More great books

Since I’ve been on a book “kick” lately I wanted to share a few more great books I’ve read over the last couple years:

The SearchThe Search by John Battelle describes the rise of Google and how they turned the Internet search business on its head. He discusses what searching the Internet was like before Google (I’d forgotten how difficult it was), and then how they came on the scene and decided they would make a $1billion one nickel at a time. He goes into the search economy, shows how Google’s model (linking searchers to the web pages they want to go to) worked and Yahoo’s and other’s didn’t (their model was to downplay search and keep people at their portal as long as possible). There’s a lot more to this book; if you’re looking for new ideas I highly recommend it.

The Tipping PointIn The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell writes about how little things can make a big difference. He starts out by giving some history on how epidemics spread. They always start with a few, reach a certain point and spread to many very quickly. He then compares epidemics with the spread of great ideas of and discusses how the roles of Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen affect the spread. He writes several case studies on things such as Hush Puppies shoes and Blues Clues TV show. This book helped me understand the power of paying attention to the details.

Think Big Act SmallThe book Think Big Act Small, by Jason Jennings, showcases nine of Americas best companies (something about great companies draws me to books:-) and what it took for them to gain their high status. These companies find ways to combine the strengths of big companies with the hunger of a start-up. And the amazing thing is all of the companies maintained the drive for more than ten years.

ExecutionIn Execution authors Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan describe what it takes to focus in on problems and execute with precision. They write about why execution is needed, the building blocks of execution and the three core processes of execution. Both authors are seasoned corporate veterans and they give their personal experiences on how the principles they teach work in real-world situations.

One of my all-time favorite books is The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen. This book goes into great The Innovator's Dilemmadetails about how companies innovate, what makes their innovations work and what makes them fail. Ironically it’s sometimes the same things (that lead to success and/or failure). He discusses at length the history of the hard drive industry and how some companies gained market share, were passed up by other companies with newer technology, and then leapfrogged back to the top. Through this and subsequent books, Mr. Christensen has become the thought leader in the topic of disruptive technologies. I can’t begin to do justice in explaining this topic, but learning about it has impacted my beliefs and career significantly. I cannot recommend it more highly!

Please share your thoughts on these books or other books you’ve found to be great!