Have you ever stopped to think about what makes some products successful while others languish in obscurity? What made Orkut fail while Facebook took the world by storm? What made StackExchange such a tremendously popular forum when there are literally thousands of others who have attempted the same thing? As much as we Product Managers want to believe that there’s some magical formula of product/market fit, compelling MVP features, and user-centered design that is guaranteed to make our product a success, the simple fact of the matter is that there’s a lot of luck involved in whether or not our solutions “stick” in the market and whether or not our ideas lead to successful products.
If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you’ve probably noticed that accepting uncertainty is a a recurring theme when it comes to Agile and agility. While it’s never stated outright as a “value” in either the Agile Manifesto or the Twelve Principles of Agile, the concept itself underlies many of the points made in those documents. In my opinion, it’s the primary cultural distinction between organizations that still cling to the old, outdated “waterfall” approaches. Waterfall creates a false sense of security by defining everything possible up-front. Agile accepts that we don’t always know everything, and that new information will not only be discovered, but might alter the path. Here are a few specific reasons why accepting uncertainty is essential for teams to be successful.
For a term that’s so well-established in our profession and so widely used, it always surprises me when people abuse and misuse the concept of Minimum Viable Product (or “MVP”). It seems like such a fundamentally simple and clear concept, but often in practice it gets all wrapped up around the axles of internal struggles, until it no longer bears any resemblance to the basics of the concept itself. And when we abuse such a basic concept, bending it to our own purposes rather than using it for the purpose it was conceived for, we wind up watering down the meaning of the term and missing the entire point of engaging in the process of defining and building that MVP in the first place. We create MVPs to confirm a set of hypotheses, to ensure that the problems we’re trying to solve are real and valuable, and to make sure that the technology behind the solution functions as expected. At least, that’s the theory…here are some common missteps that Product Managers make that change their efforts from an actual MVP into something else.
One of the primary things that Product Managers are constantly working on is change — changing the way people view our customers, changing the way our customers view our product, changing the culture of our company to be more agile, changing peoples’ minds about what’s important and what’s not…the list goes on and on. And, not surprisingly, nearly every Product Manager eventually comes to the realization that change is hard. I mean really, really hard. And sometimes it seems like even the smallest changes are the hardest to get people to commit to and deliver on a regular basis. So why is change so hard? Here are a few of the common reasons…
One of the ongoing challenges that we face as Product Managers is that we’re primarily charged with predicting customer and user behavior. We’re constantly asked to come up with new ideas, new features, and new designs that we “know” will delight our users, or at the very least satisfy them. But the fact is, predicting human behavior is incredibly difficult — there are many thousands of people who have spent hundreds of years trying to figure out why people do what they do (they’re called psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists), and we’re still making educated guesses at best. So, what are some of the challenges that we face?
A couple years ago, shortly after I launched the blog, I posted my first New Year’s Resolutions for Product Managers, which was a big hit. Somehow it slipped my mind to update it for 2016, but here I am with an update as we roll into the new year…one as full of uncertainties as it is full of opportunities! Without further ado, here are five new resolutions for Product Managers moving into 2017…
Never have I heard a better description of the challenge that faces Product Managers than a quote that I overheard at this year’s ProductCamp Seattle — “Humans are hard…” spoken by none other than my fellow General Assembly Product Management instructor Tricia Cervenan, as part of a panel discussion. Those simple words struck a chord with me, as it made me think about all of the different ways in which we as Product Managers attempt to understand, document, and predict human behavior. Every single day I can come up with some variation on the idea that “humans are hard” impacts us in some way. [Read more…]