In this #mtpcon Digital Americas session, CPO at WHOOP and author Ben Foster, explains how to think and operate like a true product leader regardless of your level or title. Having worked in product management for some time, either as a product manager or advisor, Ben discovered patterns emerging where companies were solving different problems in similar ways. His framework for vision-led product management provides a way to solve many of those problems.
Watch the session in full or read on for the highlights:
Common dysfunctions across product teams
Ben found that ten common dysfunctions affected most product teams he encountered. The three that he focused on were:
- Feature Factory: When teams believe that a product is only missing one feature to take it to the next level, they end up in a never-ending pursuit.
- Negotiating Table: There is an attempt to minimize the disappointment of internal stakeholders who collectively demand more than can be delivered.
- Roller Coaster: Taking the fail-fast mentality to the extreme and only ending up with false negatives.
Even though these three dysfunctions seem different, they are all caused by the same problem. Each of these tries to fill a void where a product vision should exist. Many companies believe they have a vision; however, in reality, they don’t. “The vision has to be grounded in the kind of value that you’re going to deliver for customers,” Ben explains.
Common practices of top-performing product companies
Top-performing product companies also have a few things in common related to their product vision and strategy.
- Clear and understood: Companies were crystal clear on their target market, potential customers, and the problem they wanted to solve with their products.
- Customer-centric: The company vision and strategy were 100% focused on customers and the outcomes they wanted to deliver.
- Transformational: Visions were bold, long-term, and ultimately transformational, resulting in a product that’s highly differentiated from everything else.
Ben sums all of this up with a quote from his book. “Rather than play defense against inbound product requests, get a step ahead by setting a concrete vision for your product that is grounded in customer research. Then you can work backwards from the end-state vision to get alignment on the strategic milestones.”
3 elements of vision-led product management framework
Customer outcome pyramid
Most companies are myopic and focused on product management and justifying that the business is effective at the end of the day. However, you shouldn’t care more about your success than the success of your customers. Ben suggests creating a dashboard that doesn’t track metrics like retention or growth but instead helps you take a look at things from your customer’s perspective.
Customer journey vision
Determine what the story looks like for a customer using your product and use it to help establish a vision. Establish a mechanism for that vision and structure it in a way that enables you to articulate that vision for the customer. In Ben’s example, he uses a comic strip that simplifies everything and keeps the customer as the story’s protagonist.
Your strategy outlines how you plan to arrive at your vision. It may be 3 or 5 years down the road, and there will be hazards and roadblocks that enter your path as a product manager, but it’s your job to plot the best path to achieve that vision.
Ben shares some of the success achieved at WHOOP by using this framework. From making it easy to sell people on the benefits of joining the company to product development now being done in parallel, and how they can now separate customer and company objectives into clear KPIs and success terms.
The key takeaways from this talk are that product managers sometimes feel like they aren’t able to accomplish some of these changes in their company. However, you don’t have to have the product leader or CPO title to lead in product.