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Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash

Unconscious bias? You decide.

A while back I wrote about the first phase of my career. When I made the move from software engineer to product manager and “never looked back”. I’m writing to come clean and admit that I have frequently considered moving back to engineering, for many of the reasons I outline here, and one more reason that is the subject of this story.

PM seems like the ideal job for those of us who are technically strong but care more about the why and the what than the how and the details. And it is. Mostly. …


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Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash

An attempt at root cause analysis

As with all innovation or change-making, it’s important to deeply understand not just the problem itself, but the conditions that created the problem. And just as with all the big problems we have as a society today, this one is fast becoming an us versus them.

“Us” is the general public, innocently using these products that seem on the surface to be engaging and helpful only to find they get more and more depressed, addicted, and distracted by using them. “Them” is the big tech companies engaging intentionally in “surveillance capitalism” and the “attention economy”.

Vicious Cycle

The media jumps in and paints the worst possible picture of what the “big tech” companies are doing and attaches greed as the underlying factor, making it harder and harder for technologists to engage in good faith in a conversation on how to fix it. …


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Photo by Jules Bss on Unsplash

I once thought there was no difference

Everything I do is centered around a continued investigation into why I’m here. How I can find more meaning and fulfillment? How can I live the best life possible?

Recently, I’ve begun to question whether I’m really a product manager. This is freaking me out FYI. It’s been my identity for 15 years and my story has been, up until recently, that I was “born” one.

Spoiler alert: I don’t think the best solution to a problem always involves technology.

And it certainly doesn’t always involve the technology I happen to be working on.

You commonly hear that product managers work at the intersection of business, design, and engineering. I have a different perspective: product managers work at the intersection of desired outcomes (innovation) and technology. Technology is an accepted constraint to the solution set. And an even more restrictive constraint is that it should involve your company’s technology. …


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Photo by Giulia May on Unsplash

A new lens for inspiring collaboration

I’m fascinated by the art and science of helping people collaborate and so spend a fair amount of time reading about it. After devouring the (amazing) book “Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There” I was skimming the resources at the end and followed the breadcrumbs (aka googled) my way to this article:

Where the authors predict (in 1967!) the rise of product management as a discipline.

“…one of the critical organizational innovations will be the establishment of management positions, and even formal departments, charged with the task of achieving integration”

where integration is:

“the achievement of unity of effort among the major functional specialists in a business. The integrator’s role involves handling the nonroutine, unprogrammed problems that arise among the traditional functions as each strives to do its own job. It involves resolving interdepartmental conflicts and facilitating…


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Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash

Do we have it all wrong?

I spent 30 years being “reviewed” and I never really questioned the necessity or utility of giving and receiving feedback until recently, when I read this Medium story by Carol Sanford. She makes a strong case against it and her perspective immediately resonated with me as “right”.

I am sensitive by nature (which I attempt to cover up with varying degrees of success), making criticism really hard for me to hear. As one example, I cried in a review meeting early on in my career (I was ~29) and it turned out my boss was promoting me. …


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Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

How to PM in the wake of the tech backlash

From where I sit at this decade juncture, it looks to me like the 2010s will be known as the decade of the rise and fall of vanity metrics (engagement metrics, AARRR, etc.). No, they have not yet fallen, but this is a time of prediction and mine is that vanity metrics will fall very soon.

Why? Because they are at the root of the current problems (social isolation, polarization, superficiality, addiction, anxiety, child development concerns…) with consumer technology. It’s not that users don’t have control over their data, or control over themselves. It’s not that technologists are evil and/or greedy. …


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Photo by AZGAN MjESHTRI on Unsplash

From anywhere you are in the organization

High tech is littered with people that “move fast and break things”, go after BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), are data-driven, and set stretch OKRs focused on engagement and revenue. And these can all be good things. But many people do these things without stopping to think about the why behind them.

This article is for those of us who want to deliver products to serve a purpose beyond just the product’s or company’s success. For those of us that believe that the answer to “why are we doing this?” …


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Photo by pawel szvmanski on Unsplash

And the catch is it’s really hard to remember to do

One hypothesis I have about high-tech innovation is that there will be less and less of it that is accomplished by individuals or small teams. That’s not to say that small teams aren’t ever going to deliver disruptive innovation. Just that it won’t be most of the innovation that happens.

Increasingly, innovation will require multiple teams of highly skilled, specialized people seamlessly working together. Assuming this is true, facilitating collaboration becomes one of the most important skills you can have as a leader (or member) of an innovative team.

And the secret to successful collaboration is the ability to be in three places at once: immersed in the content of the conversation, floating above yourself observing what you’re bringing to the room, and across the overall group dynamics. …


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Photo by Casey Allen on Unsplash

How being data-driven is killing high-tech innovation

I recently hosted my first webinar. The topic was “impact metrics”. I attempted to make a case for metrics that measure the value you are intending to provide your users. Things like reducing stress in your users lives, or giving them more free time. The punchline is, these mostly aren’t quantitative, instrumentable metrics. You have to do the (dreaded) qualitative research to find out how well you are doing.

My hypothesis is that because most people in high-tech are engineers at heart, with strongly developed logic and rationality, we are drawn to things that are quantitative. Qualitative feels squishy and hard. The truth is that both are hard. …


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Photo by MaggieLovesOrbit On Insta on Unsplash

How to partner for success

Product management is a discipline that interacts with many other disciplines and each of these relationships is important to doing the job well. In the land of B2C, your relationship with designers is critical to the success of the product and for you as a PM.

My design/PM history

When there is user interface involved, there is a fair amount of overlap between product management and design. And any time there is overlap, relationships get harder.

My first exposure to designers was at Apple back in the 90’s. There weren’t really any PMs at that time. We had engineering, quality, and HI. We worked together easily and there was no power structure. …

About

Shari Harrison

Product management leader (Apple, Microsoft) | Coach | Mentor | Teacher | Student | Dancer www.secondnatureinnovation.com

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