ManoMano’s Product management toolbox
We wanted to share with you some very concrete artefacts that we use to help us do better Product Management. They are not an end, rather means that may ease your thinking, problem framing or allow more efficient challenges. They can be templates (opportunity tree, USPs value), workshops, specific meetings… Feel free to share your own product artefacts in the comments! Here is the overview of the tools we are going to see:
- Product challenge, a presentation template and process that will help you clarify your product strategy during a 1H meeting in less than 10 slides
- USPs chart, a slide template that clarifies where you should focus your product strategy on (inspired by Rémi Guyot CPO at BlaBlaCar)
- Strategies/Tactics/Metrics, a slide template to communicate clearly your product strategy (taken from Gibson Biddles’ article based on his Netflix CPO experience)
- Roadmap pitches template and process to favor collaboration between product and business
- Opportunity tree solutions, a framework that allows a great challenge of a product solution (popularized by Teresa Tores)
- First principles, an exercise that will help you think of the deepest and long lasting elements of your business (inspired by a talk from Supriya Uchil)
- Press release, a framework that helps you think in a very user centric way and to have a long term vision (taken from Amazon)
- 5 whys, a classic but very efficient workshop to clarify the problem space!
- Product market fit, in the early stage of your product (taken from Rahul Vohra from SuperHuman)
“Product Challenge” to clarify your strategy
Product challenge is a very simple yet efficient meeting aiming at clarifying a product strategy (for a team, a group, a tribe or even the whole company). Expected outcome is mainly stakeholders alignment. Product Challenge is not a decision making meeting. We started these meetings because we realized that without a strong deadline, most PMs (Product Managers) couldn’t make time to work on their product strategy because of their operational day to day duties. We then created a weekly meeting called “Product Challenge”. Every team should do at least 2 sessions per year. Here are the guidelines for this meeting.
First, the support follows always the same agenda (one slide per item, you have to keep it short not to waste energy on slide design)
- Executive summary ( important for PMs to synthesize key messages)
- Q&As (Questions to be filled during pre-read by meetings attendees)
- Problem space (mixing both quali/quanti. insights to prioritize pbs)
- Competition (where do we stand, opportunities to differentiate)
- Key metrics (North Star Metric, and 1 or 2 two sub metrics to align on)
- Economics (macro business plan, sensitivity analysis, key assumptions)
- Roadmap (very macro, ideally now/then/later)
- Quarter release (zoom on the “now” column of the roadmap)
- Solution space (optional, critical flow screenshots display)
- Critical challenges (tech issue, dependencies, regulation, etc…)
- Team mood (optional, team can highlight up and down over last months)
Then, here is the process a team who wants to present a Product Challenge should follow:
1/ Attendees selection: define the audience depending on your objectives. Mandatory attendees include the PM and the Lead Developer of the team, Product Director and Engineering Manager of the Tribe (see this article explaining our organization). A few examples of additional attendees according to the objective:
- Business alignment with senior business leaders: on a key project, it can be great to have senior leaders form the impacted BUs sitting around the table to get their perspectives and align them. Beyond them, PM, Lead dev, Product Director and Engineering Manager
- Team alignment with all team members: invite designer, QA, engineers, data team so that everyone gets fully aligned on the team strategy
- Product critic with other PMs: invite the PMs of the Tribe (or even of the organization) to get peer feedbacks. This kind of meeting is great to grow PMs of your organization by sharing with them strategic thinking from other teams
2/ Product challenge making-up: PM writes his Product Challenge. He can make a first draft that he will share with his entire team to create discussions around each slide (with a designer for the solution, lead dev for critical tech challenges…). We usually set 2 reviews with the PM’s manager (one to check the raw content and one to proofread the document). This is a unique opportunity for the PM to make time for strategic thinking. For junior PMs, have them set 1H30 blocks in their agenda of deep work.
3/ Pre-read and questions: the Product Challenge is sent ahead of the meeting (3 days would be great) so that each attendee may read the document. No need to waste the meeting going through all the slides. Readers can ask clarification questions (using “comment” features of Google Presentation for instance) or write up deeper questions in the Q&A slides.
4/ Meeting and discussion (1H):
- Exec sum (10’) : PM goes through the exec sum to highlight key messages.
- Round-table (30’): each of the attendee shares his feedbacks (2 to 3’ per attendee). They can be greetings, concerns, recommendations… Others listen silently. PM takes notes and adds potential questions to the Q&A. This step is very important to get all the different stakeholders’ perspectives. No interruption. It usually raises unexpected insights or issues. Attendees can skip their turn if nothing new to add
- Wrap-up (20’): PM summarizes all the inputs and gets the attendees to validate them (important step). He should also align everyone on expected next steps (further investigate on a given topic, rethink some hypotheses of the business model, deep dive a tech issue…). If there is time, (s)he can go through the most important questions (see follow-up for the rest).
5/ Follow-up: PM summarizes key insights of the meeting, expected next steps and answers all the questions.
“USPs chart” to know where to focus on
I really like this tool that I first saw at the Insead CPO training during a class given by Rémi Guyot, the French car sharing BlaBlaCar CPO. This tool allows you to figure out what are your key USPs (Unique Selling Proposition) compared to your main competitors’ and where you should strengthen your efforts (and on the contrary, against which USPs you will never be competitive and you should probably save your energy).
First, pick-up the key USPs your product brings to your users. For instance at ManoMano we underlined the following USPs:
- Choice (e-commerce basic)
- Price (e-commerce basic)
- Catalog Accessibility (easily find the products you need)
- Advice (DIY is complicated)
- Convenience (DIY items are usually bulky and heavy)
Then, list the main typologies of your competitors. In our case, we have online generalists (big e-commerce retailers selling DIY among many other categories) and specialists (big box stores, offline players coming online).
Finally, rank each competitor on each USP on a scale between 1 and 5 and display the result into stacked bars. Ranking is qualitative, test your ranking along other product members to check if relevant. Here is the output for ManoMano from 2018:
As you can see, our strength was mainly on choice, then price but we lagged behind in terms of convenience and accessibility. Questions triggered by such a chart might be:
- Should we keep maintaining Choice as a differentiating USP?
- Should we catch-up on Convenience knowing that our competitors are very good?
- Should we increase our focus on Advice as there is room to be the leader?
You can iterate then on each USPs (these ones were “company USPs”) for instance with Advice:
“Strategies/tactics/metrics” to share your product strategy in a concise way
This one is taken from the great article from Gibson Biddles on how to run an effective quarterly strategy product meeting. I really like the template he uses to present into one slide his product strategy. You can apply it at different levels (company level, tribe level, team level…). Here is one example taken from the article and referring to Netflix.
Here is an example taken from ManoMano Catalog’s accessibility USP (see key USPs paragraph above):
“Roadmap pitches” for collective thinking
One of our Product Directors (Emmanuel Hosanski) set up and refined a nice process to include business stakeholders into roadmap building. He is sharing it with you right now!
Inspired by Warren Buffett’s belief that the secret to success is intense focus, we implemented a pitch process with a goal of committing all stakeholders to a few clear quarter priorities, while keeping the solution ownership in the hand of the PM. This is how it works.
1/ Problem Space Exploration: during the first month and a half of the quarter, we ask all stakeholders (business, tech and product) to select key problems and opportunities and explore them via qualitative and quantitative research. It can be existing problems that would only need to be refined and updated or totally new problems raised during the last quarter.
2/ Pitch: we then have 2/3 sessions of pitches, during which any stakeholder can come and pitch the problem/opportunity that he considers to be one of the main priorities. To limit the number of pitches, the stakeholder must get the sponsorship of a director and coordinate with the PM whose team will be impacted. The pitch lasts between 5/10min and follows a strict template (inspired by Julie Zhuo from FB, see example below):
- What is the user problem/opportunity you’re trying to solve?
- How do you know it is a real problem?
- How would you know if we have solved the problem?
This framework is particularly efficient to avoid the main drivers of bad prioritization (starting from a solution, not having quantitative or qualitative user research to support that it’s a real problem and not defining / being able to measure success)
3/ Vote: once all the problems/opportunities have been pitched, every stakeholder from the Gear is given 40 points to allocate to the different pitches (with a maximum of 10 points for a single pitch). Votes are made public once all votes are registered so as to foster discussion. Pitches are then ranked by number of votes. All stakeholders commit on problems that are considered prioritized but most importantly they commit on those that are not and that should not be investigated during the quarter.
4/ Solution Space Exploration: For each of the most prioritized problems we set up a work group led by a PM which includes both business stakeholders and lead devs and architects. The objective of the work group is to explore, through brainstorming and conception sessions, the different solutions to tackle the problem/opportunity.
Release plan: Based on the results of the solution exploration and according to the resources available in the team, the PM shares a clear release plan of what the team will do. The Release Plan presentation which last between 15/20min follows a strict template
- What is the quarter goal?
- What is the quarter star metric?
- What are the other big rocks that will be delivered during the quarter?
- What is the main topic that will be explored during the quarter?
Opportunity tree solutions to get challenged
The opportunity tree solutions is a framework popularized by Teresa Tores in this article. I find it a great artefact when a team begins to address a new problem. It is a great tool to present the outcome of an exploration phase. It can both reassure leadership by showing that you explored several opportunities and provide a great support for extra challenge. If you think of it, the Product Management job is just building this opportunity tree and picking up the right leaf! Here is the generic framework, I will show a more concrete example based on ManoMano’s case.
First principles to cope with immutable truths
I attended a very interesting talk from Supraya Uchil where she introduced the notion of First Principles (wikipedia definition). Supraya is an amazing Product leader who among other launched the Kindle at Amazon. Her point is to always keep in mind what are the key constraints of your market, the ones that will never change during the coming years. It helps you get rid of the noise and the buzz. For instance at ManoMano, our First Principles could be:
- Complex: DIY requires technical knowledge and skills. You usually go through much research and technical advices
- Long lasting: once you refurbish something, you usually keep it for years. It means you will take the time to do it right, and avoid mistakes that you must live with for years…
- Rewarding: you always feel proud of having built something by yourself. See all these people whol show you the before and after photos of their work
“Press release” to really adopt a user first approach
This framework comes from Amazon. The principle is very simple. Your work will start with a fictitious press release describing the product you are about to release. Your press release should be just one page. It forces the Product Manager to convey a user centric vision and to develop a long term vision.
The first paragraph should describe the solution from a customer point of view, highlighting the major benefits of your solution.
Then you can have a (fake) customer testimonial where he would explain how he uses your solution and how it improved his/her experience.
You can then add a last testimonial from an internal source in the company (someone who would be directly linked to the product launch, usually a senior leader).
Following the press release, you also have a Q&A section that can be quite long (5 to 6 pages) where you would raise every question journalists could ask. How different from the existing competition is your solution? What is the business model behind your solution? How do you manage the operations? …
5 WHYs to understand the root cause problem
I personally love the 5 Whys (some talk about the 9 whys, it is up to you). It is a great exercise when considering a new issue. The principle is very simple: start with a problem (eg. why DIY online penetration is so low compared to other e-commerce verticals?), find answer(s) and again for each answer ask why. Repeat! It can help you frame the problem space and emphasize the key problems to investigate further through user research.
Product market fit framework
This one is very efficient if your product is still in the early stage and you had some traction but not yet a clear market fit (be it in term of USP, target customer…). This framework is compelling to me because it focuses on your best users (while so many time people loose their energy focusing on their worst users) and because it offers a leading metric (vs a lagging one as is usually the case). The metric, suggested by Sean Ellis (Even Brite, DropBox…) is the “Very disappointed” answer to the question “how would you feel if you no longer could use the product” . The magic number seems to be 40% (below you will struggle to experience growth).
SuperHuman (Rahul Vohra’s interview) built the following survey sent to its users (best if they used your products at least once during the last two weeks)
1/ How would you feel if you could no longer use our product ? (“very disappointed” / “somewhat disappointed” / “not disappointed”)
2/ What type of people do you think would most benefit from our product ?
3/ What is the main benefit you get from our product ?
4/ How can we improve our product for you ?
Question 1 can allow you to find out the group of users who really needs your product (this specific group be over the 40% bar). Question 2 helps you better understand this group since users will often describe themselves through question 2 with clear and useful words. Question 3 highlights your key USP (still stay focused on “very disappointed” segment). Question 4 will allow you to see how you could turn the “somewhat disappointed” subgroup whose main benefit was the key USP into a “very disappointed.