As Business Models Evolve, So Too Should the Thinking of Product Managers

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“As more companies … set out to build software capabilities for success in the digital era, it’s critical that they get the product-management role right.”

Over the past several years, I’ve had many posts focusing on digital transformation, API-first approaches, the need for a bi-modal mentality and the like.  The discussions point to the rapid evolution of business models, and more importantly why Product Management leaders need to understand the implications of these changes.

This morning I reread an article I came across last week from McKinsey titled Product Managers for the Digital World, and it not only echoes these sentiments around digital transformation, but also the analogy of the Product Manager to the mini-CEO.

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… product-management rotational programs are the new leadership-development programs for many technology companies …

… before becoming the CEOs of Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadella, and Marissa Mayer were product managers … 

This is a really good read, with so many salient points within the article itself, as well as topic-branches exploring several other important conversations.  I highly recommend digging into the content yourself, but here are some of my thoughts around just a few of the topics that captured my attention this morning.

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True Leaders Produce More Leaders …

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I was recently reminded of this quote, and I’ve seen variations from several well known leadership gurus … Tom Peters, Ralph Nader, John Maxwell and others … true leaders produce more leaders, not more followers.  And with a long holiday weekend recently, I had some time for introspection on the topic.

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There are certainly times in our roles as Product Manager Leaders where you may question the true impact of what you are doing.  Or at least I have.  Partially with the products I’ve led and their impact … but more so from the perspective of impact with people. This is just something that isn’t easy to gauge unfortunately, and it can often leave you wondering. Continue reading

Perspectives on Product Leadership

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Excellent article from Rich Mironov titled 7 Ways to Know That You Need a Head of Product.  Over the course of my career, I’ve seen each symptom and they can certainly be painful and frustrating to work through.  But the last paragraph brings the point home!

Like other functional specialties, product management needs leaders who recognize and reward great product work; who know how to hire/mentor/grow product folks; and who build executive-level support for doing the right things. Without seasoned product leaders, each individual product manager has to go it alone.

Check out the article for yourself … but here are a few additional favorite comments:

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Tools of the Trade

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Over the years, I’ve enjoyed reading survey results specific to various aspects of Product Management.  From how much time we spend in meetings, to what skills are most important and rewarded, to a day in the life of a Product Manager (and there have been many others) … it is always interesting to hear what my peers think and how they go about their jobs.

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This morning I was reading another survey findings document focusing on What Tools Are Product Managers Using?  If you’ve ever done any home improvement projects, you know first hand it’s all about having the right tools!  There are some really good perspectives in the findings, even a few surprising ones … for example, 70% of Product Managers are using new applications within the last year.

Admittedly, I’ve not kept up with all of the latest & greatest out there … but it did make me stop and think about what tools have been central in me being productive in my role?  Not from the perspective of a specific product per-se… but more around what “tools” have been essential to my success in the Product Management role.

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Perspective on Yesterday, Tomorrow and Today

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“We over-exaggerate yesterday, we over-estimate tomorrow, and we under-estimate today.” – John Maxwell

I was listening to a podcast this morning on the way in to work, and honestly my mind was elsewhere … I wasn’t really engaged in the discussion … until the speaker quoted this little gem from John Maxwell.

For the remainder of the drive in, it was all I could think about. Take each piece independently … how often do we look forward to something in the future only to find our expectations of the event were bigger than the event itself?  How often do we find ourselves reliving past successes (or failures for that matter)?  How often do we miss the near and present opportunities because we are too focused on either the future or the past?

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Anticipating the Unexpected, Preparing for the Worst

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A couple of good quotes caught my attention this morning.  The first has to do with the recent financial meltdown that led to the global economic crisis … the second with Captain Sully’s spectacular landing of the US Airbus on the Hudson river.  Very different scenarios with very different contexts.  Yet both speaking to role of leadership when it comes to risk management.

“… You can’t control people through policies, procedures and policing.  You can only do it through a strong risk management culture and absolute integrity in all leaders.”

Leadership on Trial, A Manifesto for Leadership Development

We have to have situational awareness–we have to be able to create a mental model of our reality. We have to be good risk mangers, be mindful, we have to understand our process so we can sensitize ourselves to risk. Bad outcomes are rarely the a result of a single failure but are instead the end result of a  chain of events, and when we sensitize ourselves to risk and are able to identify it proactively we can break the chain and have a good outcome.  

PODCAST: Captain ‘Sully’ Sullenberger On How To Thrive Under Extreme Pressure

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The Same, But Different

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Last September, I talked about Gartner Group’s bi-modal topic in my post Adopt, Adapt … but Focus on What Doesn’t change.  It was also something I explored with Dan Woods from Forbes while at an Apigee FinTech Summit in late 2015.  My point was both modes are necessary … moving fast with new systems of engagement is critical, but not at the expense of jeopardizing existing business, systems, or processes.

So seeing this CIO article In the digital era, CIOs not buying ‘this bimodal crap’ certainly peaked my interest!

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A Product Leader’s Reading List

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I saw a post on LinkedIn about a new Product Leadership book coming out this summer, and it also referenced an article from the Mind the Product site about six essential books to read for Product Managers.  And that got me to thinking … what books would I recommend?  Not just about Product Management, but about Leadership in general?

Many have shaped my thinking over the years, but the top 5 most recent ones that come to mind.  Enjoy.

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Impacting Your Personal ROI

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I am in the middle of a book that was recommended to me, so a lot of time and focus in the mornings has been around absorbing the information it contains … and it will certainly feed at least one post in the coming week or two.  But in the meantime, I ROIstumbled across this article the other day via LinkedIn … and, wow!

“Setting daily intentions is a great way to create time and make money”

This quote came from the article, and sometimes you get the boost, reminder, and/or shot of encouragement you need by being intentional!

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Is Your Product Structurally Sound?

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This morning on the way into work, I listened to a webinar titled The Future of Product Management.  The host was PG Consulting, and the reason I came to know about the webinar was an email I received from one of their partners who had read one of my posts.  Being a student of both Product Management and Leadership, I was of course intrigued by the context of the email:

The role of the Product Manager has evolved and training programs must address this evolution … what CEOs and Investors care about is growth.

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