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Every now and then I get perspectives of everyday life that translate well to my role in Product Management.  My three examples range from building a deck, to swimming, to taking a cruise … each with a different perspective towards leadership and product management.  Would love to hear other examples from you … in the meantime, enjoy!

Example 1 – Building My Deck

The most recent example is with a deck I am building in my backyard. As I work through our strategic planning process for the business going into next year, it occurred to me several aspects of what I have done with the deck also played out during this process.

With building the deck, the first step is to make sure the area you are working with is clear & prepped.  First you have to deal with the rocks, the holes, or the general crap that might be in the way (pun intended as we have dogs). The analogy going into the planning process is understanding the history of the product, where the skeletons are you need to potentially deal with, and ensuring every is beginning with the same understanding.

The second step is to secure your footings. Depending on whether the deck is attached or detached from the house, and where you live regionally, the requirements differ.  But the end goal is ensuring you have a stable starting point to support the load.  The analogy with the planning process is identifying the key levers that can be pulled to make a difference.  These may be feature enhancements, transformational technology changes, even renewed emphasis on sales, etc … but what is important is identifying the key initiatives to support the investment going forward.

The third step is the framing. Once the footers are placed, the framing ties everything together in preparation for the deck boards. Everything needs to be level and secure … there shouldn’t be any play or wobbling once the framing is done.  The analogy with the planning process is ensuring the right tactics are identified for the key initiatives, and aligning with the right executives/key stakeholders to ensure the vision is level and the appropriate resources (new developers, support staff, sales staff, etc) are secured so  wobbling does not occur.

The final step is the deck boards. Theoretically, this should be the easiest step.  Assuming the structure is sound (footing & framing), this is just execution in securing the deck boards. But again, it assumes you’ve properly done the leg work up to this point! No different with the planning process.  Assuming the skeletons are exposed, the right initiatives identified, and the right resources secured, it’s time to execute.

Example 2 – Swimming

A few years back I was using swimming as my regular workout. After several laps one day, fatigue began to set in, my rhythm began to fade, and I began to flail. And when you begin to flail, your body works harder and you inevitably make less progress. At that point you have a choice – continue to flail and cause your body to work harder; or become intentional about regaining a rhythm to succeed. 

I’m sure swimming isn’t the only example of this; whether its baseball not following the ball to the bat while hitting; or soccer leaning backwards and not keeping your knee over the ball while shooting; or golf and swinging too hard and not allowing the club to do the work. In each case, if you are not intentional about the technique, you will not see the success.

It’s no different in our roles … we must remain diligent & intentional about market trends, or the competition, or the needs of the customer.  This ties back to the discussion a couple of weeks about about the Distractions From Being Intentional and too easily getting stuck flailing with day-to-day activities.

Example 3 – Spring Break Cruise

My family and I found a great deal on a cruise for Spring Break one year, and jumped on the opportunity to get out of the relatively cold weather of Atlanta for the sun of the Bahamas for a few days. One of the aspects of the experience jumped out at me.

Your Job Is Not Done After the Sale – as product managers, we spend much of our time on positioning, messaging, and sales enablement tools to get the product sold. After all, if you are not gaining traction in the marketplace and generating revenue what is the point? But don’t overlook the intangibles that come after the sale … after all, Net Promoter Scores evaluate much more than just the initial experience.

For example, how smoothly the implementation process goes can weigh heavily into the feedback.

 Our implementation process for the cruise was not smooth! Granted, some of it could be attributed delays stemming from computer issues … it happens from time to time. But some of it was just plain poor design and process!! Let’s put it this way, when the original design of the port is for cargo … it leaves a lot to be desired for the passenger cruise experience! 

Bottom line – re-purposing solutions for alternative markets is a wonderful idea, just make sure your due-diligence encapsulates the entire customer experience starting with parking the car!

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