Eleven Ways to Be A Better Product Manager

Takeaways from the Product Excellence Conference : December 25, 2017, Tel Aviv

Sometimes you need to snap out of product research, planning, and coordination to look at the big picture. Which is exactly what I found at ProductX in Tel Aviv. During the course of this incredible product manager conference for, I learned some awesome new ideas and methodologies that I couldn’t wait to get back to work and implement.

Couldn’t make it? Don’t worry, I got your back. Here are eleven of the things that I learned or relearned.

FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS

Easier said than done. We all find ourselves wasting time on features and fixes we think are important. How often are they actually important though? Identify the time wasters by ensuring that you work on things where the value to the customers or business is HIGH and the cost or difficulty is LOW.
Remember, sometimes less is more.

FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS

Resolve Your Split Personality

Product managers almost always have “Split Personalities”, like asking their R&D team to focus while pushing them ten features per sprint. You can’t have your product and eat it too. Push yourself to make decisions. Clearer, succinct and more precise decision-making drives better requirements and comprehension for our stakeholders.

Bridge the Strategy-Implementation Gap

There’s a giant leap between strategic epiphanies when sitting in brainstorming sessions and the ability to actually apply those ideas. The bridge to jump from one to another is utilizing a proper business model. And no one is more fit to lead that charge than the product manager, who understands both the underlying strategy behind product/market fit as well as the technological implementation, using the correct business model to connect them.

Innovation isn’t just lines of code.

Innovation is not only manifested in shipping products. It can also be reflected in better production processes or new business models. Identify opportunities for innovation by mapping out a customer observation-driven user journey. make sure to include actions, thoughts, feelings and system touch points in the journey. Together, this enables product managers to find the opportunities for improvement.

Innovation is a marathon, not a sprint.

Movies about geniuses aside, innovation doesn’t always strike like lightening; it takes time. Start thinking about the idea, but give it time to grow and let it hatch out of its egg…when it’s ready.

Embrace all feedback.

Candid feedback (aka “words of doom”) shouldn’t be avoided or perceived to be an insult. Embrace the feedback to create a connection with the person giving us the feedback. Emotions are a type of signal that you receive, functioning as the starting point for more information transfer. Valuable information.

Put on your lab coat.

Every product manager is a scientist in disguise, aiming to run as many experiments as possible and helping us make the correct decisions. Experiments help product managers read the the world’s actual inputs about our hypotheses. They’ll typically follow the following structure:

  • Problem definition and experiment purpose
  • Research
  • Create hypothesis
  • Run experiment
  • Analyze results
  • Draw conclusions
  • Begin next experiment
Have fun being the “mad scientist”

Open your eyes.

Data signals are everywhere. Happy vs. Sad child. Baby crying when she is born. As product managers we need to use data for three things:

  1. Decode the landscape and get feedback.
  2. Determine a course of action based on observations.
  3. Inform stakeholders about the data so they can utilize the insights as well.

And there’s no better way to inform than by telling a story.

Most Delightful Product

MVPs must have delightful features, not just basic features that can’t draw customer attention. Become that old sweatshirt, making your customers feel warm and cozy so that they need to be part of your product. Delight garners excitement. Try the Kano model for balancing required and delightful features.

Become the Goldilocks of Information Transfer

Product managers typically make one of two critical mistakes — giving either too much or insufficient information. The differences between developer and product manager thoughts, assumptions, and language demand that both convey the perfect amount of information. Going too detailed means that either no one ever reads the requirement or that the product manager is making technical calls that extend into R&D territory. Experienced product managers connect features to strategies, defining feature success criteria and make the call on appropriate trade-offs.

Two Killer Product Methodologies

Last but not lease, here are two methodologies I know that I need to use more often:

  • Business model canvas — (See Airbnb example)
  • Value proposition canvas - (example)

So to summarize, I had a great time, met some great people and learned some great new ideas. Hope to see you all there again next year.

Thanks Eytan Buchman for helping me turn my words to super words