Initial results from a survey of product managers describing what is working, not working and what should be changed in their Product Management roles

Late last year, I conducted a survey of Product Managers — The Good, the Bad, the Ugly of Product Management — to understand what was working, what wasn’t and what needed to change in their roles.

Unfortunately, It’s taken me a little while to analyze the results, but I’m happy to say, I’ve gotten that done and am here to share them.

This is the 1st of 3 posts outlining the survey results. The other two will be published in the near future.

Comparing to the past

One of the reasons I ran this survey (again) is that I had run it many years…

Yoda standing with walking stick on Dagobah
Yoda standing with walking stick on Dagobah

A slightly belated May 4th post for Product Managers

Yoda is full of wisdom. But did you realize that he was talking to Product Managers and dropping clear advice for them to follow?

1. Balance many opposing forces to achieve harmony you must

Without question, being successful at Product Management can be viewed as a balancing act. This is true for any business function, but given the number of cross-team dependencies for Product Management, it’s incredibly important for Product Managers to be aware of this. Over time, balancing the needs of sales, marketing, development, support etc. are all critical to success.

2. A plan is only as good as those who see it through

It’s actually very easy to make plans. All it takes is a set of objectives and some optimism…

A easy and helpful way to think about and evaluate market problems.

You almost certainly have read or heard the famous Einstein quote:

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.”

— Albert Einstein

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.”
“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.”

I often cite an analogous quote, though I’m not sure of the source:

“The quality of your solution depends on your understanding of the problem”

We spend a lot of time talking about and thinking about problems — we talk about problem spaces, problem statement, market problems, customer problems, user problems etc. etc. …

Where we get into the details and nitty gritty on personas.

Part 1 of this post is available here.

In Part 1, I covered:

  • What Problems Need to be Solved
  • What is a Persona?
  • What isn’t a Persona?
  • Why do People Dislike Personas?
  • Who can Benefit from Personas?
  • What are the Main Types of Personas?

In Part 2, I cover:

  • What Information Does a Persona Contain?
  • How to Create Compelling Personas?
  • How Many Personas Do You Need?
  • And yes, you’ll learn about Karl

Understanding Personas as a key tool for aligning teams and driving customer and market focussed initiatives.

So, I’m going to wade into a bit of a minefield with this (and the next) post, but hopefully, by the end, we’ll have diffused the mines and cleared a safe path forward.

People either love, hate or don’t understand personas. I think the latter two are somewhat related. I want to try and clarify personas for readers and show how they can be of real value to you, your products, your company and your customers themselves.

And please don’t forget the feedback link at the bottom. Would love to hear your thoughts on the article.

Part 2 of this article is available here:

Great article Andrea, though I wouldn't write off voting entirely. It is a tool, like many others, that has a time and a place. It can be misused and abused easily, and often is.

Voting as a tool, when done right, can provide signals (additional data) to use in decision making. It's not a democracy....i.e. where the things with the highest votes automatically win. I've used voting in very early stage discovery to get a sense of the key areas of concern of customers, but also to identify segments or individuals (not all voting is anonymous) to follow up with for additional information, research etc.

This is a seemingly never-ending issue I see. I don’t know when I first came across it, but it still seems to inflict pain in companies and reduce the impact of Product Management in driving product success.

Is it just a strange coincidence of the English language that the words project, program and product all sound similar, AND are also so often conflated when it comes to the world of Product Management?

We have Project Managers, Program Managers and Product Managers. And despite the similar sounding names and some amount of crossover in activities, in reality, they are VERY distinct roles with different focus and responsibilities.

But often companies don’t see or understand the distinction, or the skills required to do each of the jobs well and end up conflating them or blending them in ways that…

Scrabble holding with tiles spelling Value.
Scrabble holding with tiles spelling Value.

The word “value” is thrown around a lot in product circles.

People talk about business value, customer value, and product value.

You can have value chains, value streams and value curves.

You can define value propositions, value maps and value-based pricing.

And people love to say that they are creating value, capturing value, and delivering value.

But if you ask people to drill down and define value in more detail, there’s often a lot of humming and hawing, and plenty of “it depends” and “you know it when you see it” statements.

If you read the Scrum Guide, for example…

A favourite topic of many entrepreneurs, product managers, marketers and executives is strategy. You hear it all the time. People talking about company strategy, product strategy, marketing strategy, sales strategy etc.

The interesting thing about strategy is that while everyone talks about it, many people have a difficult time explaining it.

If you look in the dictionary, you’ll see something like this:

Strategy n. a plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result

OK…that’s not really helpful is it?

From a business perspective, the most common description of strategy seems to be tied…

A followup to my recent article Product Discovery

Two weeks ago, I published this article on Addressing The Challenges of Product Discovery. I received a lot of feedback from people about it and also received a number of questions about discovery. So I decided to answer them here as they are very relevant to the topic.

Q1: How much time should be spent on understanding buyers vs. users?

Q2: How much time should be spent on discovery?

These two questions are related and have similar answers so I’ve grouped them together.

The short answer for both questions is: as much time as necessary.

Yes, I know that’s not a great answer, but it’s really the only correct answer. As I mentioned in the original article, discovery is not a…

Saeed Khan

Product Consultant. Contact me for help in building great products, processes and people.

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