Interpret. Influence. Inform.

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Last October, the idea of ‘always start at the end before you begin‘ had captured my attention. Begin with the end in mind … align towards a common vision (destination) … strive towards a common purpose. I concluded the post with this point … as Product Management leaders I don’t think we can afford to not have the end in mind.  But the obvious question is how do you get a clear picture of the end?

To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you are going so that you better understand where you are now so that the steps you take are always in the right direction. – Steven Covey

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The Gap Between the Average and the Exceptional

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Another New Year, which means a clean slate with new goals and results to strive for.  And it also means another kickoff meeting to prepare for.  Two years ago, I posted this piece about how to use kickoff meetings as an opportunity to Align, Educate and Motivate. Check it out for helpful tips on presentation basics, storytelling & vision casting, common kickoff mistakes, and much more.

And while the kickoff is top of mind this morning, it isn’t necessarily the topic I want to cover.  You see, while registering for this years event there were several questions posed in the sign up form as input for our executives leading into the meetings.  One in particular captured my attention …

How would you define excellence?

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Transitions, Mirrors & Growth

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To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven

Admittedly, I’m reusing the intro to a previous post about change … but once again it is totally applicable. Whether you attribute this quote to the song from the mid 1960s from The Byrds – Turn! Turn! Turn!), or go even further back to its original source from King Solomon, the context implies a sense of change … over the course of time, things are not going to stay the same.

Looking back over the course of my career, I can certainly see the truth in this. And I know I’m not the only one.  Think about it, (and in sticking with the theme of the song) haven’t you experienced …

  • jobs you’ve enjoyed, and jobs you’ve endured
  • leaders you’ve admired, and those you’ve disdained
  • teams with chemistry, and teams with dysfunction
  • projects that have succeeded, and projects that failed

The reality is change is neither good nor bad necessarily … it just is.

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“Screw it, just get on with it”

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So the first part of this week was spent exploring topics around FinTech that could have easily left one overwhelmed.  With nearly 12K attendees, 450 speakers and 15 different agenda themes … Money 20/20 was certainly a sight to behold!

To keep from getting lost in the fray, I decided to focus my attention on a couple of specific themes playing out within the strategic initiatives we are looking at.

Digital

  • AI & Deep Learning – with a focus on how AI has grown to have far-reaching implications for the world around us.
  • Digital Identity & Bio-metrics – centering on how to securely authenticate an individual and their permission to complete a specific transaction?

From the various sessions I sat through, I took the time to jot down major/common themes and created this word cloud.  Granted, nothing really new was revealed.  But it was interesting, and encouraging, to hear from industry leaders about progress on these topics over the past year.

Out of everything I saw and heard, there were two high impact ideas I walked away with I wanted to share … one from Sir Richard Branson, the other regarding the Greek & Roman god Janus.

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“Always start at the end before you begin.”

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I was having a conversation with a colleague recently about strategy, and was struggling to get my point across. There are many different types of people in the world, and this particular person tends to be more inclined to action and would prefer to just get on with solving the problem at hand.  As a result, she doesn’t see much value in strategy.

I can’t fault her for the opinion she holds … in fact, quite honestly we need people like her in the organization.  But I also firmly believe there is value in understanding the broader reasons behind why we do what we do.   A purpose that ultimately guides our decision making. So I thought of a simple story to convey the point.

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Revisiting Agile: Definition of Done, Metrics & More

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I recently accepted additional responsibilities after a Product Leader left our organization, and out of necessity I’ve had to dig in and immerse myself in a new world.  So it shouldn’t surprise me when I see it has been just over a month since my last post.  What a powerful reminder of how easily you can lose focus on being intentional when you get sucked into the day-to-day activities of the business.

As part of this transition, I’ve been thrust back into the mix of what it means to be Agile, so I’ve recently spent some time digging back through a few concepts.  It was helpful for me to revisit these, so I thought re-sharing would be a good idea.  Enjoy.

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Digital, Value, & Process

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Over the course of the past several weeks, my attention has been captured by three articles in particular.  I’m just getting the chance to get caught up with post-vacation reading, sodigital as I am processing them myself I thought I’d share as well.

All of the articles focus on a common theme … and you’ll generally see it in articles from McKinsey, Accenture, Gartner, Forrester, etc … how is digitization radically changing the dynamics of the markets in which we operate and the speed at which we need to move to remain competitive? How do we create value in this new ecosystem as Product Management leaders? And how do we shift our focus from a strategic standpoint from the complex to the simple?

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The Vacation Paradox

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Take a look at any number of articles or posts about successful leaders, and you will likely find a common idea shared amongst many of them. Whether you call it rejuvenating occasionally, recharging the batteries, striking a work/life balance, or some other description, they all speak to the idea of getting away from the office for a spell.

So why is it so hard to heed the advice of these successful leaders when it comes to our own calendavacayrs and taking a vacation? Why is it so many Product Management leaders can’t seem to let go of the seemingly endless tasks even for a short spell? Why are we as Product Management leaders so willing to forgo any time away from the office at the expense of potentially hitting the proverbial wall?

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Product Management Leader Don’ts

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I read an interesting article recently about the relationship between success and confidence. The article centered around the latter, but the implication (although not mentioned until the very end) was about success.  In his conclusion, the author makes this bold statement …

Embracing the behaviors of confident people is a great way to increase your odds for success, which, in turn, will lead to more confidence. The science is clear; now you just have to decide to act on it.

After several decades in the Product Management world, I can say there certainly is a lot of wisdom here. And while I encourage you to read the article and form your own conclusions, here is a synopsis of the 10 points with a few thoughts of my own.

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The Fruits of Complacency

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Ok, I admit it!  I am one of those World Cup lunatics.  If you walk by my office, you will likely see a game streaming on my mobile device.  Or if I am in a meeting, I will be following 281px-2018_fifa_world_cup-svgvia a live GameCast.  And yes, I was one of those back in 2002 when the tournament was held in Korea/Japan who was up at 2 a.m. watching the US team play.

So, having grown up in Germany as a pseudo-military brat (my dad worked for a defense contractor with the Air Force), yesterday was not a very good day.  The US team hadn’t even qualified (eliminating one of my teams), and now my other team in the tournament (Germany) is done.  And while there are plenty of differences between the two teams and the context of their exits, I perceived one thing that was the same:  a complacent approach.

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