30 Days of Product Management Genius with Jeff Gothelf | Find The Shit Umbrella

Aero Wong
Aero Wong
Dec 13, 2017 · 4 min read
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“What’s your long-term career goal?” the CEO asked.

“I don’t have a long-term goal, yet.” I was answering a question in the final interview for a Product Manager position. “But I have one for the short-term: become a Product Manager.”

“Okay. We’ll see,” he replied, ending the interview. Three days later, I landed the job. I was going to facilitate a product powered by cutting-edge technology that I barely knew. Besides being in over my head with the technology, I didn’t even know what I was supposed to do as a Product Manager!

I didn’t know how to achieve my goal: I didn’t just want to survive as a Product Manager, I wanted to thrive! I was nervous, but my desire to learn helped me focus on my next steps. I hired a researcher to provide me with all the information and online tutorials I needed to learn about Product Management, and I acquired a list of thought leaders in this domain.

A week later, I was like a piranha swimming in the ocean of knowledge. Tapping into all the genius of those who came before me, soaking up all of their combined wisdom, I quickly learned as much as I could and applied this to my new job. Senior Management was amazed by my acumen and Product Management skills.

Jeff Gothelf is one of the Product Management geniuses who contributed to my PM success.

Find The Shit Umbrella

Few months earlier, our company was planning to revamp a major client-facing product.

One day, I pulled everyone into the conference room and tried to persuade them into believing this great image of our upcoming major product release. But my real agenda was to lay down a new process for long-term continuous innovation within the company.

I wanted to prove to the company that if we established a well-defined process in our development cycle, then we would consistently build the great products our end users desired. I proposed a plan for the ideal scrum state that got buy-in from the Senior Management.

I was relentless during those weeks. I constantly checked in with the project team, development team, test team and all stakeholders, and updated everyone about the evolving process. I wanted to reinforce the fact that we were getting closer to the promised land, but that it would take a lot of hard work to correct the course we’d been taking before. I even asked the UX designer to double the output of wireframing and high-fidelity prototyping. It’s unreasonable in the short run, but reasonable in the long run. Everyone seemed up to speed. We were sprinting.

But no matter what I did, I failed spectacularly. Our company put me on the sideway of the evolving process suddenly and I was assigned to taking notes for product roadmapping for the next two months.

I didn’t have The Shit Umbrella, as Gothelf calls it, to protect my plan.

The best laid corporate plans go nowhere without an executive sponsor. This is doubly true for any kind of transformation of process or culture. It is this executive’s job to hold back the flood of corporate crap that would normally inundate and stall attempts at radical change. It is their job to ensure:

  • The team has the time it needs to see if this new way can work;
  • The team has the right people and they stay allocated to this initiative;
  • The team has the tools it needs to build continuous feedback loops into their work;
  • The team has the access it needs to various internal systems, stakeholders and customers;
  • The team’s success is measured in terms of changing customer behavior for the better rather than just shipping a set of pre-determined features;
  • The team’s findings — on their specific project and process — get heard at the executive level and applied in other situations;
  • The team has the ear of executive leadership.

Are you a Product Manager? Are you hungry for more practical and actionable PM knowledge you can apply on your job?

Jeff Gothelf is a speaker in the Product Manager Summit: The first FREE Web Conference showcasing Product Management best practices from around the world.

His topic will be How Successful Product Managers Listen to Customers and Create New Products Continuously.

You don’t want to miss this. Claim your free ticket.

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The Story of Product Baby Chasing Product Wisdom to Thrive…

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