A very long time ago, I stumbled across a wonderful book entitled Getting Things Done When You Are Not in Charge by Geoffrey Bellman. While the entire book has great tips, tricks, and advice on how to lead and achieve through influence rather than position power (a challenge that all Product Managers face daily), one chart in particular has stuck with me, and it’s something I’ve actually posted on the wall everywhere that I’ve worked. Bellman presents a very clear distinction between the definitions of Leadership and Management, presented in a format much like that of the Agile Manifesto, where leaders value those attributes on the right more than those attributes on the left. [Read more…]
Product Management is often seen as a simple matter of inputs and outputs — we take information from the field, from the market, or from the users, and we create new products and features that meet their needs. If only it were that simple! Customers rarely know what they really want, although they can be very vocal about what they “need”; sales teams are often focused on the last deal they lost or the next deal they’re trying to close, and market intelligence can often be muddied by statements and claims by competitors and thought leaders which can be hard to distinguish marketing spin from product fact.
This is why it’s important for a successful, clever Product Manager to ensure that they have a view not only of the “product” that they’re specifically working on creating requirements, specs, and user stories for, but the “whole product” that the company is selling. If you silo yourself to only viewing the “product” as the particular piece of technology or a specific solution to a specific set of problems, you’ll inevitably be missing the bigger picture of how people use your product, why they use your product, and most importantly where your “product” fails to meet the needs of the users — and where those gaps are being filled in by others, either internal to your company or external groups making money where you should be focusing product.
This is part 3 of a series of articles about leading through influence. The first article focused on the concept of social capital and how we earn the right to ask people to follow us; the second focused on how to use effective facilitation skills to establish yourself as a valuable resource for others to reach decisions; and this article will focus on the importance of trust and respect, and how ultimately everything that we do as Product Managers comes down to these two fundamental interpersonal concepts.
In part one of this series, we discussed the concept of “social capital” and how important it is to build, manage, and spend it in the process of leading through influence. In this installment, we’re going to extend the scope of the discussion to a highly effective way of building your social capital in an organization, as well as to build the trust and respect of your peers and senior management team.
Facilitation is the process by which an effective product manager brings people together and drives them toward a common goal, and in doing so establishes themselves as a hub around which the spokes of the organization turn. When performed effectively, good facilitation is almost imperceptible to those involved in a meeting – people enter, engage, and leave with an understanding of what’s to be done next. When done poorly, or not at all, the company and management devolve into a morass of pointless, lengthy meetings that go off on wild tangents and never deliver any meaningful progress.
Which sounds more familiar to you?
It’s often stated that Product Managers “lead through influence” rather than through position. And people smile and nod, and occasionally clap their hands in agreement.
But how many people really think about what this means, and how to achieve it?
This is the second time I’ve massacred a quote from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and while I personally have no love for the man, he’s a font of applicable and interesting quotations on the subject of battle tactics, strategy, and resource management. This particular quote comes from a hearing in which he was asked about armor that was not provided to troops in Iraq — and in an historic response, he said, “…you go to war with the army you have — not the army you want or wish to have at a later time…”