There are a great many company cultures in the world that go out of their way to avoid conflict of any kind. And, while the intent is good — nobody wants to work in a combative workplace — the common practice of lumping all conflict together into a single bucket and trying to toss it out the window winds up being counterproductive in many ways. You see, conflict isn’t always a bad thing; certain types of conflict actually make us better at what we do. When we engage in constructive conflict, we hone our ideas, challenge our own assumptions and biases, and push others to do the same. In an environment completely absent all conflict, we might as well all just be “yes men” and simply rubber-stamp every idea that comes around. Successful businesses are not built that way. Here are some things to think about when it comes to engaging in constructive conflict.
At some point in my meanderings online, I heard tell of a Slack channel that had been set up for Product Managers to engage with each other and discuss topics of concern to those in the profession. And, being the Clever PM that I am, I had no choice but to check it out — that channel turned out to be hosted by the folks at the Product Coalition, and administered by none other than Jay Stansell. The channel has turned out to be an exceptionally popular location for PMs to share articles they’ve written, ask for thoughts or feedback on idea that they have about how to improve the craft, and even to just humbly ask for advice when they’ve hit a brick wall on something. When creating my list of participants for this 10 Questions series, I knew right away that I’d want Jay’s thoughts on the role, and he was more than happy to oblige.
In his own words:
I’m a product person, who is grounded in design, shaped by technology and inspired by profitable business models. I “cut my teeth” in a travel start up in 2007, and grew it into one of Australia’s leading travel products. I’ve since been fortunate to craft products and product experiences for some of Australia’s largest brands. Today, I take my start-up learnings, attitude and culture, into coaching Agile, Lean Startup and Design Thinking methodologies at Australia’s most innovative insurer, IAG.
What I’ve enjoyed the most from my story so far, is the talented people who have become friends. It’s these connections that inspired me to launch the product community ProductCoalition.com – a place for product people globally, to connect, collaborate and inspire.
And without further ado…my ten (eleven) questions for Jay…
We live in a day and age where there’s a ton of information and mis-information out there about pretty much every topic imaginable, and Agile development is certainly not immune to this phenomenon. In fact, anyone who looks for help in pushing through an Agile transformation in their organization is immediately confronted with a vast array of presumptions and preconceptions about what Agile is, why it matters, and most importantly what it delivers. The simple truth is that the reality of an Agile transformation — both in process and in outcome — is often so very far removed from the myth that we as Product Managers need to be ready, willing, and able to step in and manage the expectations that our stakeholders have about what’s going to happen and what they’re going to get from it. Here are three very common preconceptions that simply must be squashed for us to lead a successful cultural transformation.
Sometimes an idea just strikes me out of the blue and sounds interesting enough to sit down and write a little bit about. This is one of those posts, spurred on by a discussion I had today with a newly-hired Product Manager with almost as much experience as me. As we were talking about our past experiences, where the current company is at, and how we can work together to improve some of the practices and procedures throughout the organization, I started to think about all the different things it is that we actually do as Product Managers, and all of the hats that I’ve worn in the past. These are some thoughts on a few of these hats…
We tend to take the fact that agility is important as a given, when the reality is that not everyone in the business world has reached the same conclusion. Thus, it’s important sometimes to take a step back and examine why agility actually matters, so that when we’re faced with people who aren’t as convinced as we are, we have salient points that we can raise to help them understand the value that agility brings with it. Here are a few important things to remember when thinking about why agility is important in our jobs…
One of the benefits of teaching with General Assembly has been to build my network of talented, knowledgeable, and experienced Product Managers, not just in the Seattle area, but around the country and the world. One of my more recent connections was with Suzanne Abate, an LA-based product management coach who caught my eye with her latest project, 100 Product Managers — wherein she’s collecting the stories, advice, and experience of 100 product managers of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. Here’s what she says about herself:
Suzanne Abate is a seasoned product coach who has developed hundreds of digital products for clients like Jaguar Land Rover, Best Buy, and Warner Brothers, and helped dozens of startups go from idea to execution. She is the Co-Founder of The Development Factory, an LA-based product consultancy, and Chief Product Officer of 100 Product Managers, a free online resource and weekly podcast for new and aspiring product managers. Suzanne has been teaching part-time with General Assembly since 2015, bringing product management training and classroom fun to new students and enterprise teams alike.
And, without further ado…Suzanne’s responses to my 10 questions!
A recurring challenge that many Product Managers face is coping with stakeholders who attempt to block our efforts, either covertly or overtly. Sometimes these situations arise due to simple miscommunication, but other times they’re power plays, the results of internal politics, or even caused by grudges held from previous slights — real or imagined. To excel in Product Management, one must not only deal with these blockades as they arise, but you need to predict when, where, and how they’re likely to come up so that you can head them off before they even become an issue. To do that, though, we have to try to figure out what the most common reasons are for stakeholders to actively or passively interfere — and that’s what the Clever PM is here to share with you. In this first installment I’m going to focus on overcoming passive resistance, and we’ll address more active resistance in a future piece.