Zen of Product Management – Article 2

How do you get started?

So now that you know that everything is the way it should be, you may be wondering, how do I manage my portfolio? The secret to success is blending the traditional with the rational. For me, I’ve always been a big fan of simple. Every organization needs a process to manage innovation, product development, release and life-cycle management. So pick one. You could use Stage Gate® or some other well proven method for managing the product lifecycle – for me what’ s important is that you have a process – not which one it is. The key is to balance the process with the need – keep it simple and keep it iterative. If the process isn’t working, analyze it some more, refine it and continue but never stop. So now, let’s look at the leading issue with most portfolios.

If you’re having a hard time getting the desired results in your portfolio, sometimes you need to take a step back, start over. It doesn’t need to be a complete reset but go back to the drawing board in your own head. Verify the underlying premise of the solution you’re managing.

  1. What’s the market need?
  2. Does my solution fit that need?
    1. Does it fit the need well?
    2. Is it cost effective and reliable?
  3. Am I just a “me too” solution or is there something unique?
  4. What are my current consumers telling me?
    1. How do I know that’s really what they’re saying – am I getting it first hand?
  5. If I were king of the world, what one thing would I change and why?

Answer these questions for yourself, spend no more than a day or two reflecting on them and then you’ll have a blueprint of where you can focus your time. Here’s the trick though, when you’re answering the questions – and I encourage you to answer them in writing for yourself – avoid using the word “should”. For example, if you think you have a service problem in your product support group, the answer is not “The service team should do a better job.” The service team is actually doing the job exactly the way they should because they have no other choice – all the conditions are right for it to be that way.

“You’re crazy Ernie – that makes no sense at all!”

I knew you would say that – but hear me out. Why should anyone do anything differently just because you want them to? Why should they do anything differently just because some arbitrary company policy or guideline tells them to? By fighting the fact that people are doing what comes natural to them, you’re fighting reality – it’s irrational. You can’t fight reality – it’s real! Instead of reeling against what is, accept what is as the current baseline and then identify a better state.

So in this example, product support is lacking – let’s say that the people in the consumer call center aren’t providing the most up to date information. That is after all one of the most common call center problems. An irrational product manager sits at his desk and pulls his hair out screaming aloud – “They should just give the right answers and this problem will go away.” A rational product manager accepts that the current state of things results in some (or possibly all) call center representatives giving out wrong or outdated information. So why is that? Are they all pathological liars? Do they have the right information to give out? Do they know where it is?

When you sit down and start to define the better state, try replacing the word “should” with the phrase, “…it would be better if…” – this will get you into the right mindset.

Stay tuned for Article 3 where we will dive into rational decisioning.




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