Collaboration, or the Fine Art of Making Your Own Luck

Collaboration Clover

Where should your product or service go next? What will the next iteration look like? Product managers wrestle with these questions all the time. Sometimes they talk to their colleagues or others within the organization. Perhaps they listen to feedback from channel partners. And if they’re customer-centric, they’re finding ways to listen, observe, and discuss the customer journey. Often these explorations occur separately from one another. It doesn’t have to be that way.

As soon as we disconnect a desired new feature set from real things like production limitations, distribution challenges, or plain old price, we’re only considering part of the story. Taking this approach can mean that you as a product manager are setting each of these groups of stakeholders in opposition, weighing the needs of one against another. Invariably this sets a big weight on your shoulders.

We contend that it’s a weight that doesn’t need to be there. Collaboration is the lucky four-leaf clover that can provide everyone with a solution they can live with – without watering down the final result in some sort of “management by committee” scenario. While this used to involve a lot of expensive, time consuming travel and research, modern collaboration tools and techniques mean it’s much easier to get all these people around the table. Having a chance to explain their rationale, answer the big “why” questions, and see their feedback having an impact during the planning process is much more effective that having to explain why they didn’t get what they want. Moreover, it could even result in an even better approach than any one group had thought of alone.

Imagine investing a little talk time up front to come up with a product that’s truly wanted, efficient to produce, and easier to deliver. If that sounds like the sort of lucky outcome you’ve been looking for, we have the tools that can help.

Collaboration makes it happen,

Megann and Steve

Did you Win? Or Did you Learn?

Learn to fail. Fail often. FaiSuccess vs Failure.pngl fast. Does this sound familiar? Failure is the current focus in many schools of “entrepreneurial thinking”. We contend that it is of no consequence whether you failed – rather, it’s what you learned that’s important. For us, “You win or you learn” is the key to keeping going when things don’t turn out quite as we had anticipated.

Seeking the “why” of any outcome will build your understanding of the processes, paradigms, or procedures that got you there. That kind of insight will improve your future outcomes, regardless of whether you won – or learned.

Keep asking questions,

Megann and Steve

Our Time is on Your Side

How time flies when you’re busy! Those critical product management tasks you’ve ProductCamp_Atlantic_2015been meaning to tackle just keep slipping lower and lower on the to-do list. So are they not that critical after all? Or are you putting your roadmap in jeopardy?

We’ve all been there. When we sat down with Allan Neil (@allanneil) of Ready Product Radio for this interview, we were busy working with our partners to put on the second annual Atlantic ProductCamp. We were also moving our home office and our business halfway across the country. So we understand that sometimes you need to reach out for help. If you’re looking for a partner to help with customer understanding, mentoring, facilitation, planning, or marketing strategy, we can give you a hand with that. And if you’re a seasoned Product Manager looking to strike out on your own and go freelance, we’ll tell you that it’s not for the faint of heart. But if you’re not afraid of hard work with a side of rejection, it can be the best career move you’ll ever make.

We hope you’ll check out our interview with Allan. And while you’re at Ready Product Radio, check out some of the other Product Management professionals that have been interviewed as well. There’s a goldmine of advice, help, and encouragement inside.

Continued success,

Megann and Steve

Take Time to Save Time

A schedule change in the morning can throw off your whole day. That’s why prioTime Management Listritizing what’s important is a vital part of our “winding down” time at the office. We’re pretty sure you’ve experienced one of those days that have gone from manageable to jam-packed in a heartbeat. So can do you manage?

One of the best tools we use is to identify our lifeboat task. What’s that, you ask? If everything goes awry, right out of the gate, and you can only save one task to bring in the lifeboat with you, which task is absolutely vital? That’s your lifeboat task.

How do we use it in practice?

  1. First, at the end of your day, make the list of all the things you need to get done for tomorrow.
  2. Rearrange in order of importance.
  3. At the top of the list, write your lifeboat task. Think carefully about the task. It should be a task that takes you toward your most important objective. (Remember important is not the same as urgent – it’s likely your lifeboat task is both. Check out Stephen Covey’s Urgent-Important Time Matrix.)
  4. In the morning, remind yourself of your lifeboat task. If that’s the only thing you do, other than go to meetings, fight fires, and herd cats, commit to getting it done.
  5. Do whatever’s necessary to make it happen.
  6. Forgive yourself if you have to let go of some of the the other things on your list.

It might seem counter-intuitive to use time to save time, but in the long run, this will help keep you from getting distracted by tasks that get you nowhere.

Throwing you a lifeline,

Megann and Steve

Why time with dear old Dad may be time well spent…

Time Management
Success-oriented managers are often telling us they wish they had more time. Or they tell us they wish they knew how to get more time. All that equates to wishing they could cram more into their day. And usually, that means their work day. No matter how much time they save on one task, we frequently see them trying to simply fit in another. We were reminded by an article we read in HBR today, that it’s really energy, and not hours, that is important to being super-productive. So while you are trying to find a way to schedule one more task here and another obligation there, it’s vital to think about what is really important in your life. Where’s your joy? What gives you energy?

One way lots of winners recharge is by spending time with their families. So although Father’s Day is just around the corner, perhaps it’s a good idea to make a point of prioritizing family time, all the time. The authors of the HBR article, Tom Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy say it can be good for your career health and a real source of energy. It’s tempting to use every new captured moment to do more work. The great Harry Chapin’s song, Cat’s in the Cradle, is a good reminder why spending a little of that hard-earned time on yourself and your family might be the best plan. So whether you’re a father, or you have a father, invest in your family, and have a more productive day because of it.

Fully recharged,

Megann and Steve

Seriously, Solve Something for Somebody Else. That’s the Job of the Inventor.

Science & Invention, November 1928. Volume 16 Number 7There are far more patents than viable products in our world. Why is that? Usually it is because the inventor wanted to create something. Perhaps even to solve a problem he or she was experiencing. What makes an invention really take off is when it solves a problem for somebody else (preferably, for a number of somebodies). How can you validate whether someone else is having the same problem?

  1. Define the problem solved by your invention. (Can’t? Proceed with caution).
  2. Done? Look for others who are having that problem.
  3. Find out if it is serious enough that they are trying to solve it.
  4. Make sure the reason they are using a competitive solution is because they believe they have the same problem as you do. (Management Thinker Clay Christensen says to ask them what job they trying to get done by using that product or service).
  5. Compare your solution to theirs. Is it easier? Cheaper? Faster? More reliable? You may be on the right track. Keep validating your idea with real customers. It’ll save you a lot of real failures if you fail at the drawing board.

Got a customer, contact, or colleague with a problem they’re trying to solve? Your idea may be the invention they need.

Start solving,

Megann and Steve