When product veterans make rookie mistakes

Sometimes “veterans” make rookie mistakes.

This week was my turn, if you’re in #productmanagement come along and learn from my mistake.

When I coach product teams and they ask me to review their user stories or roadmap, I’ll always ask them “How will you know if you’re successful?” Often times teams will scratch their heads and say something vague like “they’ll use it.”

Why don't you just ...

“Why don’t you just do …?”

“You should just …”

If you have worked in product management for more than a few months someone has said this to you. It’s deeply frustrating and can feel condescending.

Product managers should embrace constraints

Force constraints on yourself as a way to change your thinking.

I ♥ grocery shopping and am always looking for ways to make things more efficient.

In our most recent release of ClipDish I wanted to add support for sending ingredients to a shopping list. The obvious solution is to add a grocery list feature into ClipDish.

Upon reflection, I realized that would take longer than I wanted with no clear return on the time investment.

Instead, I ended up integrating ClipDish with Apple Reminders. This cut the implementation time from weeks to hours. It also added some additional features like Siri and shared lists that I wouldn’t have even thought to include in the first version of a feature built from the ground up.

The value of product management

I’ve spoken with a lot of CEOs from engineering led organizations who don’t understand how a much a good product manager helps their bottom line.

Here’s what I tell them.

Great product management drives down the cost of development because it front loads mistakes where the cost of being wrong is low.

In other words, if you’re learning that you’ve built the wrong product after you’ve released, you just ran a $$$$$ experiment that I could have probably done for less than $1000 and some interviews conducted via UserTesting.com.

Don't let product managers do project management

Product managers who are asked to do project management are always miserable. Why? Because they are performing roles that have competing needs. If they understand this then they are always fighting an existential battle over which “hat” wins. Product managers are externally focused and make decisions based on what they learn about the market and customers. Project managers are internally focused and make decisions based on the operational needs of the business.

Always Be Testing

Early in my career I worked in QA. Part of the process in those days was running around with a floppy disk on a Friday afternoon and sticking it in a bunch of machines.

In my rush to get to Happy Hour my testing sometimes lacked thoroughness. A couple of problem releases over the years taught me a valuable lesson.

It’s easy to gloss over testing.

Don’t.

What are the hidden costs of a company policy?

A number of years ago I heard a talk from a Ritz Carlton executive. The executive told the audience that Ritz employees are empowered to spend up to $2,000 without manager approval when solving a customer problem. Ritz Carlton trusts their employees to make decisions that are in the best interest of the customer, which in turn, is in the best interest of the Ritz Carlton. Recently, I read the book No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings.

How-to quickly clean old newsletters in Apple Mail

I receive a ton of email newsletters. I try to unsubscribe but let’s be honest who really wants to go through and manually click “unsubscribe?”

I know there are paid services that will manage your inbox for you. I just don’t feel like spending the money.

Here’s a way to nearly automate batch deleting tons of email in macOS Mail.

So, if you want to follow along, launch your Mail app and let’s get going.

Product Manager & UX Interview Exercise

When I interview Product Managers or UX designers I usually block off time for an interactive exercise to see how a candidate tackles product problems. This involves designing a feature for app or website. Not to design the “right” solution but to observe thinking. I don’t want “free work” from the candidate so it’s never about my company’s products. Rather, I’ll take an application that I’ve used recently that I find particularly irksome.

Product Ownership is Taken, Not Given

Ownership is taken, not given. If you are starting out in product management, don’t wait for your boss to give you responsibility over a product line. Prove that you deserve it and then take ownership. How do you prove you deserve it? Understand the company’s strategic vision. Be able to articulate that strategic vision and how the current product fits (or doesn’t.) Understand your product inside and out. Understand your competitors inside and out and know why they make the choices that they make.

Learn Product Management With These Great Books

You won’t find many, if any, colleges teaching software product management. I started my career in the early 90s and was lucky to have some great mentors. Today, it’s a lot easier to kickstart your career in product management through a number of really great books. In this list I’ve compiled my favorite product management books. Reading these is great starting point for you to begin learning about this really rewarding career.

How to Build Better Products by Asking Yourself One Question

As Product Managers we’re constantly running around in 50 million different directions. It’s easy to lose focus under the barrage of feature requests coming at your from sales, marketing, customer support, customer interviews and internal stakeholders. You end up spending too much time looking at your product as “that thing that you’re selling” when you should be really asking yourself “What am I really selling?” There is a classic analogy used in sales to sell the sizzle, not the steak.

Want to build a better product? Stop obsessing about it (here’s what to focus on instead)

This post was updated from an earlier piece Assume for a moment that you just returned from a cross-country trip. You’re sitting at home looking at your credit card statement with all of the trip expenses. Which companies are most likely to show up on your bill? If you flew, maybe it’s USAir or JetBlue. If you drove, you’re likely to see Exxon, Lukoil or some other gas stations.

What John Mulaney can teach us about bad UX design

Last night we went to see John Mulaney at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. We arrived at 6:45 to find two lines wrapped around the block. I expected a line, COVID screening takes time. What I didn’t expect to find was a second line inside the theater where people were taking our phones and watches and putting them into security bags. I was really looking forward to this evening. It was the first time I’ve seen a popular comedian in a venue like this.

Product Management is not Project Management

These two terms are often used interchangeably and yet, other than having the word “management” and sort of sounding the same, they are vastly different things.

In many organizations senior management will point to a project manager and say “He’s our product manager.”

Product Tunnel-vision

Focus on the problem, not the solution. I just spent about a half an hour looking online for replacement photo sleeves for a baby album that sits on a shelf in my office. I needed to do this because the sleeve was torn. After coming up empty and thinking I’d have to toss the whole thing in the trash I realized something pretty obvious… There were about two dozen unused sleeves in the back of the album.

My Productivity Workflow

I have a number of tools and techniques for getting stuff done throughout the day. This article originally was written as a note to myself. I’m publishing because it might help others. It’s certainly going to help me when I inevitably fall off the wagon.

Finally! Never Look at Another Piece of Paper in Your House Again

Note: This is an update to the post I originally published here. I don’t update that site anymore and am pulling relevant content onto this website. I have a huge filing cabinet and I hate using it. Each day, I get mail – junk mail, bills, medical records, brochures, manuals, school work, investments. You name it, I get it. These papers end up stacked like little mountains in my kitchen, on my step and on top of my filing cabinet.

How to Implement GTD using OneNote

Overview In this article I’m going to discuss how I moved from Omnifocus to OneNote for implementing the Getting Things Done methodology. OneNote is a great cross platform general purpose digital notebook application from Microsoft. The cross platform nature of OneNote suits me really well since I have an Android, Mac and iPad and am constantly switching between each. This doesn’t represent the only way to implement GTD. Customize it to suit your particular way of working (and share what you did in the comments!

What to do with your physical stuff after a GTD sweep?

I’ve recently jumped back into Getting Things Done after a year or so lapse. Yesterday I “corralled my stuff” by going through my office and clearing out every self, nook and cranny.

Following David Allen’s method, I processed all of that stuff by tossing it, filing it or making a note of it as a Next Action in my system. It was an incredibly freeing process. I feel like at least as far as my office goes, I have a pretty good handle on all of my open loops. I was using a laundry basket as a giant container for the physical stuff that I needed to do something with.

Getting Things Done Book Outline

I’ve been a practitioner of the book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen for years. I reread the book every few years. I finally got around to outlining it. Note that this is a work in progress, I’ll remove this note when the outline is complete Part 1 - The Art of Getting Things Done 1 - A New Practice for a New Reality Overview You have all the tools you need to be in a high performance state.

Eat That Frog Book Summary

I read the book “Eat That Frog” a few years ago. It’s a book that helps focus you on getting stuff done and avoiding procrastination. If you’re listening to the audio version of Eat That Frog this outline might be helpful to you. Introduction Author has read many different productivity books and articles. Tried techniques. Ones that worked he incorporates into his process and training. Work on the most important thing.

Great sites for picking website color schemes

I have a hard time with colors. I don’t know if I’m actually color blind but I will admit that from time to time I’ve left the house with two different color socks. I know my inability to ascertain color can hamper my ability to create visually pleasing web sites but I don’t want to stick to black and white. However, finding color designs to steal (ahem, borrow) is extremely tedious.

The Rabbit Hole

Distractions are a bitch. I’m writing this as the last step in a hole that I found myself in. It went something like this. Wanted to work on a checklist for my morning routine. Had to decide best tool to create my morning routine in. Realized I already had it in a text file. Opened the text file. Made some updates to the existing checklist. Thought “Hmm. Doesn’t Tim Ferriss have a process he follows every morning?

Should Product Managers Do Wireframes? The Answer is a Resounding Maybe.

To promote a recently penned blog post, Product Plan CEO @JimSemik recently posted the question “Should product managers wireframe?" on LinkedIn. I have some thoughts on that I’d like to share. This question assumes that we’re talking about product managers in the software business. If you’re a product manager for a soup company, you might not get as much out of this answer. We all know that a product manager’s primary responsibility is to understand the market, customer and align it with your business strategy.

Does your app save content offline? Humanize your filenames.

I am on a quest to help UX designers think about humanizing their products. In this post I’d like to talk about humanizing filenames when your application saves an invoice. Any application that bills it’s customers should have a human readable file name. Your customers need those invoices when they submit expense reports. It’s frustrating to have a folder full of poorly named files when you are trying to find a specific invoice.

Humanize Your Data

I’ve been playing around a lot with the app Rescue Time, it’s a really cool productivity tool that helps keep your workday focused. I’ve used it for a number of years. Today, I was taking a look at some of my stats and came across this pretty cool statistic. Wow, I’ve been productive for over 5 thousand hours. Wait, how long is that? Is that a year? So I popped on over to a time conversion website and plugged the data in.

3 Things I Learned About Usability Testing By Looking at Customers in Their Underwear

How resistance can get in the way of qualitative insights “Please strip down to your underwear now,” I heard myself say. I tried to act casual about the situation I was in but the fact is, I felt pretty uncomfortable. When the middle-aged man walked back out of the dressing room, I was going to wrap a tape measure around his naked mid-section. As a product manager for a technology company, you wouldn’t expect this task to be in my job description.

Focus On Customer Experience like Nike and Disney

I just did an interview on the Design Your thinking podcast we covered a lot of ground related to product development. Some highlights include: Why you should focus on the customer and not the product. I give some tips on how I keep myself organized (hint - hire a great team) What tools I use to accomplish my day to day tasks. Check it out.

Product Management + Agile + UX: Part 1

Greg Laugero View Original May 31st, 2013 Product Management has been greatly affected in recent years by the rise of both Agile development processes and User Experience (UX) Design. The fact that these two disciplines have had a rough time working well together has made it that much more difficult for the product manager, who is now on the frontlines of making them play well together. How you make this a holy alliance for any product management team is emerging, and it’s possible to outline some general guidelines, which I will do in this post and several follow ups.

How to prep for a Product Manager Interview

The job interview is a nerve-wracking, fear inducing prospect for a lot of people. The thing is, with some prep work, your really don’t need to stress over the interview. In fact, I like to tell people that a job interview is a two way street. If you think about it you’re both prospects. The company is trying to figure out if you are a good fit for them. At the same time you should figure out if they are the right company for you.

You're a Product Manager? What's that mean?

How many times has someone asked you this question? I’ll bet often. Over the years how I’ve answered this question has evolved to this… I delight customers by giving them meaningful products. I think it summarizes nicely the core role of a product manager. Everything you do is in service to this end. Without focusing on this core concept then it doesn’t matter what process you follow, what tools you use to wireframe, what your competitors are doing.

Lazy UX Design - Phone Number Fields

Grrr, I hate poorly designed forms. I’m especially annoyed by forms that want humans to think like computers. Case in point, take a look at this phone number field from Bed Bath and Beyond. Phone numbers in the US can take many forms - parens around the area and dash separated are the most common. What isn’t common is a form typed out without any separators. However, lazy design forces that on people.

Don't start a business until people are asking you to

Derek Sivers just posted an article about starting a business that has some really great advice that while obvious is often overlooked. In a nutshell: Don’t announce anything. Don’t choose a name. Don’t make a website. Don’t build a system. You need to be free to completely change or ditch your idea. Yet too often we get sucked into doing all of those things? Why? Because it feels like work.

When to Use Which User-Experience Research Methods

There are many different ways to research your users. So many in fact that it’s hard to know when to use a particular method. In this post, the author lays out framework you can follow to help you determine which UX research method to follow. In When to Use Which User-Experience Research Methods the author describes a framework for choosing which research method to use based on where you are in the lifecycle of a project.

5 Scrum Experts Weigh in on Splitting User Stories

User Stories are the building blocks used by Scrum teams to develop working software. When stories start out they often describe large areas of functionality that can’t be completed in one sprint. Beginning Scrum teams often fall into the trap of breaking the stories down by technical area (i.e., front end work, back end work, database work, etc.) The problem with this approach is that the resultant stories don’t deliver value to a customer.

Prioritizing Product Requirements with Scorecards

One of the product managers core responsibilities is to effectively prioritize product features. To an outside observer this often looks like reading tea leaves. Creating a process in your organization to effectively rank product initiatives will help create transparency and avoid squeaky wheel prioritization. I’ve collected some research on the topic below. This first article from Karl Weigers suggests using a cost / benefit ratio to prioritize product features. I’ve used this method in the past and thought it was pretty effective.

How to delight customers like Papa John’s Pizza

Last night I ordered a pizza from Papa John’s Pizza. It’s usually not my first choice but like most fast food it was convenient. I called to order the pizza and was told it would be ready in 20 minutes. About 12 minutes later I arrived to pickup my order and was greeted by the man behind the counter who said “Oh you must be here for the Pepperoni Pizza. It will be up in two minutes.

Intellifit 3D Body Scanner

Intellifit was a 3D body scanning technology that used low power radio waves to construct a 3D model of a person. That model was used to extract body measurements. The body measurements were used to help customers find great fitting clothing. While at Intellifit I was the VP of Engineering, responsible for all of the software for the website, kiosk and 3D scanner. Check out some photos and videos below to see it in action.

Great 15 minute overview of the role of Product Owner

Henrik Kniberg, Agile/Lean coach at Spotify & Lego gives a 15 minutes presentation on being a product owner. I love the way he condenses this information down into a digestable bit. https://youtu.be/502ILHjX9EE Some key takeaways here. Your agile teams should be cross functional. Don’t get bogged down in manual regression testing. Invest in automated testing and continuous integration. Every story needs at least one automated acceptance test and unit tests on the code.

Add Agility to your Product Management Process

Agile is a software development process that focuses on delivering customer facing value in small iterations. This article assumes that your development team works in Agile Scrum. At my current company, the Product Management Process is what I would term Scrumfall. We do not build heavy Product Requirements Documents that we turn over to developers. Rather, we plan iterations while still maintaining an overall vision of what we think the final product should look like.

Rework Book Summary

I recently finished the excellent book Rework by the guys at 37 Signals. If you’ve read Getting Real, most of this is old hat. However, if you are interested to see how their product development principals are applied to running a business. Check it out. Here’s my outline. Chapter 1 - First The New Reality Ignore the real-world people will continue to tell you why you can’t do something.

Lead the Field Book Summary

The book Lead the Field is one of those old school self-help books who’s advice is still applicable today. It focuses on developing yourself around serving others, developing a positive attitude, personal responsibility and goal setting. I wrote this outline so I could come back and visit the key points in the book. Have you read any good productivity books? I’d love you to take a moment to tell my your favorite in the comments.

Stop Treating Your Users Like Children

I spent about 15 minutes yesterday bulk deleting photos from Google+. Each time I clicked delete on a photo the computer so kindly asked me “Are you sure you want to do this?” I dutifully clicked “Yes”, as I’ve done thousands of times over the last 20+ years. Then, it hit me. Why am I still doing this? It’s 2013. If my computer were a sentient being and asked me to confirm every time I took some slightly dangerous action I would respond with something very sarcastic.

Be Amazing

I recently went to a great BYOB restaurant that just opened in Philadelphia. A week later, they sent me this. When was the last time you did something unexpected and awesome for your customers? Writing this card probably took the waitress 30 seconds to write. The impact for the business is priceless. I’ve already told a number of people about it (including you, the reader) and when I posted it on Facebook generated interest in the restaurant by people on my friend’s list.