Every month we’re able to pack our Prioritised and MTP Leader content with new product management ideas and unique insights from our amazing experts. This month was no exception. In our March sneak peek, we share tips from our membership content on accelerating change in slow-moving organisations and finding the best people for your product team, to avoiding bias in your user interviews and putting an end to bad product decisions!
Let’s dig right in.
1. Want your company to see the value of product? Show them!
In 7 easy ways to show your company the value of product, independent digital transformation and product leadership Jen Swanson, explains that if you work in an organisation that’s resistant or slow to transform from project to product thinking, you are not alone. She sees it all the time and in this post she offers a selection of ways to accelerate the change, and win over even the most resistant partners across the organisation.
Most importantly, she says, don’t wait for someone to tell you to start. “Start articulating your work in terms of values, outcomes, iterations, roadmaps, and priorities. Even if you are the only one using these tools, start using them to demonstrate how you work differently but continue to deliver what is asked for,” she says.
“You could also schedule a demo, even if you’re not yet working in agile. Start monthly, schedule it for the same time, with the same people, using the same format, and use it as a chance to show off to your stakeholders the work that was completed in the last period. Soon, people will come to expect that you are going to bring them incremental examples of work completed and value delivery. At this point, you might introduce some prioritization and roadmapping exercises to give your stakeholders a chance to shape your future demos.”
2. Avoid bias in user interviews
In this Conducting user interviews: A practical guide, our experts highlight the importance of pushing back against bias when you interview your users.
As Dilip Chetan, a leader in UX research points out, the first step towards managing your biases is being aware of them. He frames it as soul searching: “Look at the data and ask, ‘why did I speak more with this person? Why did this person turn me off? Or what about this person is not working out for me? And is that fair or unfair’?” Mind the Product’s managing director Emily Tate adds that when you look back at who you’ve interviewed, you should also ask who you haven’t interviewed. “You need to recruit a diverse set of participants so that you don’t allow bias to creep in. Otherwise, you might quickly converge around a theme, and later find that you’ve only picked it because it confirms your biases.” From seatbelts to facial recognition software, we can all think of products where bias during development has had an adverse impact.
Check out this great talk by Cindy Alvarez from #mtpcon San Francisco too — Cognitive Biases & The Questions you Shouldn’t be Asking is a useful run-through of types of bias and how you can reduce your bias by asking the right sort of questions.
3. Align your story with others to impact change
In Owning your story as a leader, an interactive AMA session for MTP Leaders, Donna Lichaw, executive coach and author of the User’s Journey: Storymapping Products that People Love, discusses the importance of storytelling for product people. “Knowing who you are, what your story is, and knowing what your superpowers are, can ultimately impact products and the world,” she says.
Donna explains that if there’s something that you want to change within a company It’s important to understand the full story of an organisation before attempting to implement change. For example, if board-level members aren’t engaging with the prospect of new opportunities or ideas for change — ask yourself, are your goals aligned with theirs? If they’re not, she tells us, you can’t complete the story together and initiate change.
4. Stop making bad product decisions
In the AMA session, Performing Effective User Research, C Todd Lombardo, author and VP of Product at Machine Metrics, discusses how performing effective user research can minimise the impact of bad product decisions.
“We [product managers] love our ideas so much that we want to see them come to life,” he says, and explains that it’s common for teams to want an idea to occur based on initial validation “it’s not a bad thing, but product teams often hang onto the emotion of an idea that they overcome the reality of whether it might be successful.”
One way to avoid making bad product decisions is to spend time with your customers. In doing this, he says, you’ll learn about their challenges and needs, be better placed to identify where opportunities lie, ask the right questions, and narrow the focus on what you need to address. For example, you might see a pattern of issues arising among your customers or learn that they’re going elsewhere to use a different product to fulfil their needs.
Don’t worry if you don’t seem to get the answers you need right away, says C Todd. You can also use this time to gather small findings to spark and stimulate an ongoing conversation with your customers.
5. Finding the right people for your product team
In How do you build a successful product team?, Michael Morris, VP Global Product Management at Experian offers his advice on the type of person who he feels is most likely to contribute to a product team’s success.
These, he says, are people who are:
- Discovery focused — those who show curiosity and learn on a regular basis
- End-to-end thinkers — those who can articulate or demonstrate that product management is more than technology and products and that they can think end-to-end
- High performance — those who are passionate about whatever they do
“The business of a product means how the product idea comes about, how it is sold, supported and marketed, so a product manager must be able to think about all the layers that make a product a success,” he says.
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