In this #mtpengage Manchester talk, Tom Loosemore of Public Digital talks about how to create the right climate internally to do “good” product management, as often, it’s the internal climate that’s more than half the battle of building good products.
To start, we first have to understand what we mean by digital. Public Digital define this as:
Applying the culture processes, business models, and technologies of the internet era to respond to people’s raised expectations
(Tom even registered it as a domain as he was that tired of saying it.)
The definition of digital isn’t a bad definition of modern product management, for companies born within the internet era. For businesses that pre-date the internet, switching from analogue products to digital products is hard, and we shouldn’t think of what we do as anything other than revolution.
Most product managers know they need to start with user needs, move to discovery, launch alphas, betas and get things live. However, leaders of organisations don’t see this as the approach. They have succeeded by minimising uncertainty, keeping hierarchies in their boxes and launching fully-formed products.
In order to create the right environment from internet-era product management to work, Tom has a number of tips to create lasting change, in a way that everyone will buy in to:
Show. Don’t Tell
Transparency is key. When you get started it’s important to show how you’re building a great thing in a great way. Find a space in your organisation with high visibility and keep inviting people to be involved.
Spot the Right gap
Pick your first project really carefully. Don’t waste a good crisis; if something has gone badly wrong, it can be the perfect opportunity to demonstrate a different way of doing things. It’s important not to over-stretch; you need to do something which everyone inside the organisation notices, but is also achievable. In government, they started with content publishing as it’s not technically difficult, but every can see the website continually changing.
Show the Thing and how You’re Achieving it
Always show what you’re making while you’re making it, and make this a part of a teams ways of working. You know you’re succeeding when most of the attendees to your show and tells are people you don’t know.
Go Where the Hamsters are Friendly
Start with people who are keen, open to new ideas and want to work with you. The more senior these folks can be, the more likely your change is to stick.
Get the Right Room
Space is critical for a team to be effective and can’t be underestimated. Lots of wall spaces with an open-plan layout is disproportionately important when driving flexibility.
Devops is Bureaucratic Kryptonite
Move faster than you can be caught; if you can build, deploy and iterate at pace, you can get ahead of the organisation and any mistakes you make won’t destroy you or your product, as they can be easily changed.
Avoid Head-on Battles – Even if You’re Right, You’ll Lose
The cost of going off on your own is generally too high; even if you happen to be correct about a way of working, a product decision, or anything else, others can make sure that you don’t succeed.
Publish Comparable Performance Data
Work in the open, and be transparent about performance data. By publishing it online, you help people around the organisation understand what data you have, and what metrics to care about, which can be a great way to drive momentum.
Don’t be Scared of Optimising for Internal Momentum
Whether we like it or not, sometimes your priority user is going to be internal to the organisation. This is okay; it can help create momentum, trust, and can ultimately help build better products for users.
Tom ended with perhaps the most controversial slide:
If you’re not fearing you might be fired, you’re probably not being bold enough.
He later clarified that “Feel the fear, and do the right thing anyway” might have been a better way of putting it
Businesses, charities and governments need to adapt to the new world of digital. This is not an easy task and is going to cause some friction. If you’re a product manager, then you need to be at the forefront of this change, helping organisations to do things better for people.
This isn’t easy, but it is important.