In Product Management – Part 2 my interview with Brett Buchanan, Product Management Consultant continues. Essentially, the Product Manager and the team have to work with complexity to solve a jig-saw puzzle where the pieces aren’t initially designed, their shape may change over time, and stakeholders are pushing on the development with their own agendas.
First, though, Brett explained the foundations of Product Management starting with the movement from Business Analysis (BA) to Agility with Product Management using Scrum. Agile allows for uncertainty, learning, and shifting your plan. This is more realistic than having a Product Requirements Document (PRD) which would never change.
The Switch to Agility allows to more collaboration more frequently with the customer rather than building more, higher quality deliverables that don’t necessarily relate to the customers’ need and the problem that needs solved. Staying in touch with the customer increases the odds of success by shipping features on a routine basis for the customer to validate the deliverables which are then moved into the product pipeline. This approach also helps dramatically with risk management and time-to-market.
For this to work the Product Manager has to be skilled in saying “No” in a respectful manner by filtering based on 4 criteria:
- What’s the problem?
- How Big is this problem?
- What part of the customer’s need does this address?
- Do we need more research?
Getting prototypes in front of the customer can help save time and resources as well as the organization having a firm understanding of the customer’s problem and the customer stays comfortable with the progress. It also increases efficiencies by validating work on a daily basis. Brett includes an example of how McDonalds developed their processes and flows by graphically laying out on a tennis court how the restaurant work would flow.
The conversation moved to organizational politics. Clear-headedness is critical. The Product Manager needs to always have a clear sense of measurable goals and what the product needs to do in order to deal with all the inputs and constraints stakeholders can provide.
By staying on track via Product Management with Agility the team avoids simply becoming a feature factory caught up in Project Management that may drift from solving the customer’s problem.
The flow based on Product Management is shown at Apple from initially starting with the iPad but then moving to the iPod then iPhone and then, after an eco-system has been created, the iPad.
All of this works best when an egoless team frame-of-mind is used solely focused on the customer’s problem. Working this way allows the team to shift culturally from focusing on failure to “what did we learn.” This helps the team account for their behaviors in a proactive manner and maintain their autonomy. To do this effectively empathy for the pressures stakeholders have will help communicate in a straight-forward, constructive manner. This will allow for experimentation and acceptance of a non-linear path leading towards successfully solving the client’s problem.
Simply put, everyone having top-of-mind the question, “How does my behavior solve the customer’s problem?” leads to success.
To learn more about Brett’s expertise as a Product Management consultant attend his presentation at Business Agility Conference Midwest Nov 6-7, 2019, in Columbus Ohio.
You can also connect with him on LinkedIn.
Access the conference web site directly for any comments or questions, https://businessagilitymidwest.com/, or you can contact me at
In line with Business Agility and dealing with complex situations, you can download my free e-book MINDSET – 5 SIMPLE WAYS TO LOOK AT COMPLEX PROBLEMS and learn how to find a simple vantage point from which you can resolve challenges.
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