What constitutes real product experience? In this ProductTank London talk, Keith Merriman, Senior Product Owner at The AA, explains how to deliver complex products and three things that helped him during his career as a product manager.
Watch the video to see Keith’s talk in full or read on for an overview of his key points:
- Understand the theories but be flexible
- Remind yourself about simplicity
- Think like Columbo
Understand the theories but be flexible
Throughout Keith’s career, three things bothered him. He had never worked in a startup, never disrupted anything, and never worked as a product manager in the way the product books said. However, he found that while these things are important, they aren’t the only way to be a product manager.
While creating digital sales channels at a previous role, the number one outcome was to be compliant by a specific deadline. He couldn’t A/B test, and there was only one shot at getting it right. Keith found that when dealing with legacy systems and several staff members, waterfall can sometimes be a friend
In some cases, the agile approach doesn’t work, but waterfall exists. It’s essential, therefore, for product managers to build their knowledge in multiple areas and focus on outcomes, not outputs. How you reach a product goal is less important than actually getting there.
Remind yourself about simplicity
As a product manager, it can be easy to lose yourself in the details of complex products and become a subject matter expert. In businesses with lots of processes, detail and culture can sometimes make you blind to obvious, simple solutions. Therefore, you should be wary of the details and use someone a little farther away from the action as a sounding board on your approach to certain tasks.
Think like Columbo
Keith draws on an example of an old detective TV show to hammer home his point about how to navigate complex situations by having the right mindset. Four mindsets are crucial to being a successful and influential product person, and product managers should employ these mindsets, just like Detective Columbo, to achieve success with complex products:
- Explorer: Imagine possibilities and brainstorm options
- Evangelist: Know when to focus and when to motivate the team to a singular goal
- Analyst: Gather data to discover hidden gems
- Challenger: Ask questions to eliminate less promising paths
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