There are a great many different corporate cultures to be found in the world, but one consistency among far too many of them is decision-making processes that rely more on gut-level instinct and whomever yells the loudest rather than on hard data. For some companies, this has served the CEO well — a small, nimble startup can’t always waste time doing detailed validation or data-gathering in a “stop moving forward and you’ll die” environment. In other companies, it’s become the de facto standard due to strong personalities who may prefer authoritarian leadership styles over more democratic and empowering styles. Regardless of the reason, though — companies like this eventually wind up struggling because they make the wrong choice one time too many, based on the leaderships “market instinct”. And it’s our job as Product Managers to shepherd these companies into a more modern-day, data- and hypothesis-driven approach. Here are three major reasons why data-driven management is far more effective than management by gut or personality.
As Product Managers, we’re often involved in making decisions and driving others to decisions that need to be made — sometimes dragging them kicking and screaming toward the future. And in doing so, there’s often an undercurrent of “reaching consensus” that runs through discussions and permeates meetings comprised of varying people with a wide breadth of interests and agendas. But the simple fact is this: consensus is, more often than not, a means by which the great is sacrificed at the altar of groupthink. Great ideas are rarely consensus-driven ideas; they challenge too much of the status quo to be something that everyone can agree on. Let’s explore some of the ways that consensus-driven decisions suck…
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted one of my “PM 101” articles, so I figured with 2017 just kicking off now is as good a time as ever! Past articles have focused on marketing, sales, and design teams, but this time I want to focus on service teams. These types of teams are your integration specialists, your technical sales people who come in after a deal has closed to help clients onboard, or even your own internal team that uses your product on behalf of your customers. No matter where exactly they sit in your organization, service teams can be a prime source of information and validation for any Product Manager.
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?
We’re often told that Product Managers “lead through influence” — that we don’t generally have the direct authority to get things done, but rather do so through convincing others of the best option available from the myriad choices they have. The bad news is, that’s really damn hard. The good news is, we’re not alone — in any given organization there are many different teams and members who lead through influence rather than authority…and identifying who they are and how we can work together with them is an essential tool that every Product Manager needs to have in their back pocket in order to be successful. Here are some clues that we can look for to identify those fellow influencers so that we can work with them and not against them.
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…]
At some point in every interview that you have, the people on the other side of the table will inevitably pose the ultimate question to you: “So, do you have any questions for us?” There are hundreds of guides out there that list out the kinds of questions that you should ask in general, but due to the nature and uncertainty that comes with Product Management positions, I think there are several very specific questions that a savvy candidate should pose to their potential employer. Far too often, we fail to take full advantage of this opportunity, and though it’s certain that there will be some amount of spin put into the answers that you receive, no Product Manager should leave an interview without asking these five questions: