Managing Up within the Organization to Head Off Potential Problems
Maintaining your PM Brand
Be known as the fix it person.
When there is a problem, particularly one that is cross-functional, be willing to solve the problem. It will give you great insight into the business and visibility across the organization. You'll be known as a solver.
At the same time, do maintain a focus on your PM skills. Being knows as a problem solver makes you marketable internally. But it's not easy to fit those skills into a job description externally.
Offer to be the scribe or take notes in meetings
Being the scribe helps you better understand organization issues and problems to solve. This is also excellent for those involved in rotational programs.
Being the scribe gives you the power of the pen - it helps you guide the understanding of all involved and can also help assign action items.
Don't insist on being the note-taker, offer your services
Make sure you don't get pigeonholed as the note-taker. Make sure no one assumes you will do it or you will be diverted from doing pure PM work. Make sure you fit in your primary responsibilities.
Use onenote or evernote - it will help you build your proficiency on these applications, and they also happen to be very good for collaboration.
Take courses in the PM domain.
There is a great class taught by Bernie Maloney at Stanford Continuing Education. It's $300 for 5 weeks of instruction in agile etc. It's also a great way to build a PM network.
Many schools offer courses in agile and product management as well
Don't forget the 280 Group and Pragmatic Marketing.
Is a PM degree worth it? Answers include:
Internships are considered more valuable - hands on experience
Coursework is good, but demonstrating your PM potential in interviews is better.
SW Development knowledge goes into PM knowledge as well.
Writing and Blogging
It's good to have a practice of writing something on a quarterly basis
Great places to post include:
Blogging can help you become visible to reporters who need a quote and private equity consultants who need expertise before doing a deal.
You can look at Rich Mirinov.com as an example
Measuring the success of your blog:
Link tracking & twitter activity
Check retweets from persons of credibility
Have the target audience in mind when writing
You may get negative feedback or comments but thiswill not affect your career so just go for it. If it's controversial, think of co-authoring with someone.
What to write about? It's best to write about something you have interest in, or something that connects two disparate topics/fields.
Tradeshows - make connections if you get the opportunity to go
Sales presentations/meetings - shadow sales or participate
Ask thought leaders internally and externally if they can mentor you
Volunteer at industry groups (like this one)
Recommendations & credibility
Ask for linkedin recommendations or letters of rec from partners you work with, bosses you've worked for after a project is completed
Take advantage of their laziness and write a recommendation for them (or at least write bullet points).
If you can't think of one, ask them to find a metric that you can use publicly.
Managing Up to Head Off Potential Problems
What to do when you see a tactical or strategic issue that you think is important to avoid problems, but upper management isn't willing or able to acknowledge the problem.
It's important to raise an issue - but make sure the issue is clear and quantifiable. That is, to get attention make sure you can show a $-value or schedule impact that is so big they cannot afford to ignore it.
Do try to suggest a solution. Being someone who consistently raises flags without suggesting solutions can be branded as non-constructive.
Do try to formulate your strategy in a presentation - showing the problem, it's un-ignorable magnitude, what the alternative solutions can be, and the one you recommend.
If the problem is significant, and the executive team doesn't think it is significant, try to find out why. Sometimes executives are willing to live with a big problem to focus on solving a huge problem. If you know what they value, you can make a better decision in what and how you communicate with them. (Political jiu jitsu)
Reading List / Recommendations
Carol Dweck - Mindset (Talk about fixed mindset vs. growth mindset)
Josh Waitzkin - The art of learning
Organize a categorized reading/resource list - would anyone like to take on the task?
1. What are the best practices & new ideas around competitive analysis?
2. How do you use data as a Product Manager?
3. How to handle product delays or reduced feature sets?
4. How to best communicate the value of product management to internal executives?
5. What are the best practices & horror stories in project planning
Votes: (Add your name here)
7. To Support or Not to Support?
How do you rally everyone behind a product idea? Everyone wants to do the next cool thing and there are so many not so cool things that a customer wants. For instance supporting IE because customers wants it and because it is still being used in enterprises versus using chrome for rapid development.
*Congratulations to Karshit who just accepted a PM position with Expedia.
*Still need someone to help with organizing the list of all the articles/books/videos. Would appreciate a volunteer.
*B. Country Introductions
How to simplify products and product introductions for more than one country?
*Several Issues to consider:
- User Interface customization
- Agency compliance
- Channel structure & customers
- Market psychology (usability)
*Example - Selling an IoT solution in Nigeria
Too many moving parts (too many partners – no system’s integrator)
Government policy (business friendliness, tariffs, logistics, etc.)
Financial infrastructure - can a business even take a payment?
Must understand drivers of growth in each region
Great TED talk about incubator for new babies – no one can seem to maintain incubators, but toyota trucks are everywhere
*Product misses due to poor country introduction?
One example from Telecom is Siemens vs. Cisco. Siemens products were designed for Siemens certified technicians who are ok with long processes to collect billable hours. However the US market was dominated by Cisco certified engineers who were independent. They wanted products that were low-touch so they could minimize hours spent on one customer. Siemens obviously won in Germany but had challenges in the US market.
One recommendation is to anticipate which countries a product will go into during the definition cycle - to the extent possible. Designing globally will save a lot of long-term hassles but this must be measured against time to market.
Proposal - case study on bay-area-centric products that work and fail across the country and across the globe. Why did the iPhone work (where the maps logo is Hwy 280 in cupertino), vs. LG phones which have little global market share?
Proposal - Why did webvan not work while now we are seeing several new online companies that ship pre-packaged groceries for a 'meal' experience?
One example is that in Japan the default application is MS Excel for most types of work items.
Generational expectations need also be considered. For example, excel experts may be frustrated by a lack of functional spreadsheet use by those whose only experience is google docs spreadsheets.
Willingness to share information or take security risks is increasing in the US but may still be different globally.
- Alibaba and alipay changed china landscape because online payments took a long time to come to fruition since google was blocked
Workforce automation also varies by country
- What happens now that we’ve created tech that displaces workers? What do we do with the people?
- How do we educate or uplevel people to get jobs?
*What does the future look like?
Shifting domains – identify opportunities
Complex systems optimization will be an opportunity
How wearables and personal info will become more accepted beyond personal use ... example Fitbit is tied into some companies' HR benefits (health insurance etc.)
Topic Backlog For Our Next Meetup
Please feel free to add new topics or comment/vote on existing topics.
0. Housekeeping Topics
Proposal to address no-shows (this month we're doing short notice to see if that helps).
Secret santa resume review - who's interested in participating?
Organize a categorized reading/resource list - would anyone like to take on the task?
1. How to proliferate our brands as product managers (Continued)
We had a great discussion last week. Is there something we can do as a group to publish something or contribute to the PM community at large?
Homework: Think of a famous product manager you know about (1 you work with, 1 you don't). Then let's model best practices to brand ourselves.
Votes: (Add your name her)
email@example.com. What are the best practices & new ideas around competitive analysis?
Any MBA 1st year can look at a gartner report and create a slide deck. But startups are often flying blind with other companies in stealth mode. How does one identify competitors and position their product appropriately – particularly with meaningful insights that go beyond market research. I’d love to hear stories from others about what works for them.
Kevin F+try to get a sense of what's a "Minimum Viable competitive analysis" (how deep to you need to go for it to be useful/valid)
firstname.lastname@example.org. How to best communicate the value of product management to internal executives?
When building a PM team or going through annual reviews, we eventually have to ‘justify’ the PM group’s genesis or existence. What are the best ways to handle the presentation to an executive about your group and what it’s adding to the company (or why it’s time to add a PM group)?