I was called into a meeting with a team here in the office a couple weeks ago because they told me they had a “question” about the estimations that they were doing. As we started talking, it became immediately apparent what the problem was, they were getting into arguments about whether their estimates were “too big!” Apparently, someone had told them that they “couldn’t” have any stories that were above a certain value, or at least that’s how they took the directions they were given. I stopped them for a minute and had a quick discussion about the reasons why we estimate stories, and why it’s incredibly important for the story points to reflect the size the team thinks the work is, regardless of what other people “want” them to do. I walked away to leave them to their work, and was entirely unsurprised when I saw some 20-pointers land on the backlog. Far too many teams suffer from some malady similar to that of this team — they forget why we’re asking them to estimate, so they start to engage in anti-patterns that undercut the very purpose for which estimation exists. In a follow-up conversation with another member of our Product Team, I started to think about how to describe Story Points as something other than “estimates” — and I came up with the idea of them as a “signalling tool”…
As Product Managers, we’re often deeply and intimately involved in the processes that our companies use in their everyday business. Issue tracking systems, customer feedback systems, email and IM systems — there’s a neverending list of tools that we use on a daily basis to further our own (and others’) professional productivity. Having such a laser focus on the things that we do at work sometimes means that we forget that some of these very same tools (or tools like them) can be used to help ourselves on a daily basis in our personal lives. As I’ve taken on this blog, and written paid posts for other companies, I’ve come to value several tools for both professional and personal productivity that I thought it would be fun to share.
One of the challenges that we have as Product Managers is managing our own career trajectories while at the same time running the products that we are tasked with keeping alive and breathing. A wise mentor once told me that we’re all consultants in this day and age, and that we should be sure that we’re gaining skills and abilities that will allow us the most flexibility in the future, should a company decide we’re no longer needed, or vice-versa.
As a Product Manager, there are some skills and abilities that transfer between companies and markets, and these are the skills that we need to focus on whenever and wherever we can, so that if or when the time comes that we bid a fond adieu to our current employer, it’s with the confidence that the next phase of our career will be that much better.