In this #mtpcon London+EMEA session, Randy Silver, Product Consultant and coach at Out of Owls, explains what happens when plans get disrupted and how product managers can adapt themselves to change and uncertainty.
Watch the video to see his talk in full, or read on for an overview of his key points:
- When plans are disrupted and you’re dealing with uncertainty, you need to go back to basics
- At a time of disruption, priorities change and your customers will make decisions based on their priorities — you need to put yourself in their shoes
- When you know your customer and your market, you can put those two things together to create a series of bets such as hypotheses or experiments that then get prioritized
- Nothing will work unless you execute. The key is to prioritize focus and simplify your plan so it can be explained to a six-year-old
Go back to basics
Managing products is all about making plans, and these plans involve discovery, communication, and execution. Product managers always try to be prepared, but this isn’t always possible. So what happens when plans get disrupted, and you’re dealing with uncertainty? You need to go back to basics regarding ideas, roadmaps, and feedback from designs. Product managers need to:
- Apply what you know about discovery to your strategy
- Work with your teams the same way that you do with your customers
- Review your roadmap, priorities, and the way you work
Ultimately, four things matter:
Mo’ customers mo’ problems
Strategy starts with customers and problems. If you already have a product in the market, you need to know your customers as a product manager. You need to start by “putting on your customer’s shoes” and creating personas for them. However, you also need to talk to them to truly understand their problems and listen to their priorities. “At a time of disruption, a time of change, priorities change, and customers make decisions based on their priorities,” says Randy.
Some of the questions you may ask to uncover these priorities may be:
- What is your customer’s current situation?
- How might that be different from their previous situation?
- What relevant habits may be affected or changed by the situation?
When you understand your customers’ priorities as a product manager, you also need to look through their eyes and understand their choices. This means analyzing the market and looking at your competition. There are several ways to do this, including using the Gartner Magic Quadrant for B2B companies. Still, ultimately the goal is to discover the opportunities you have to solve your customer’s problems. This requires you to understand your USP and then analyze how to improve it based on price, quality, availability, features, usability, service, or perception.
Let’s talk strategy
When you know your customer and your market, you can put those two things together to create a series of bets such as hypotheses or experiments that then get prioritized. While hypotheses are often thought of as facts and assumptions, sometimes these assumptions include emotions that lead to opinions instead. So, product managers need to create a shared context and understanding using roadmaps.
Not all maps are roadmaps
There are various types of maps:
- Assumptions Mapping: Feasibility, viability and desirability on a neat canvas
- Impact Mapping: Work backwards from the impact you want to achieve, focusing on outcomes and outputs
- Theory of Change: Fill in the messy middle between current conditions and the desired outcome
- Dragon Mapping: Keep asking: For this to happen, what has to be true?
The Dragon Mapping concept, which Randy created, requires you to do the following:
- List your goals: What are we trying to achieve? How will we know when we’ve accomplished it?
- Answer this question: For this to happen, what must be true?
- Repeat as needed: For this to happen, what must be true?
Product managers need to have an understanding of capabilities and resources at their disposal to be successful. This includes:
- Team: A group of people that can ask a question, get an answer, understand it, and take action based on the answer
- Talent: Recruiting the right talent for the team
- Onboarding: How you support the team, especially with remote teams
- Self: Ensure that you are taking care of yourself during times of uncertainty, which could mean analyzing the meetings you’re attending
- Presenteeism: Set priorities well and communicate the value being produced rather than creating productivity theatre
Finally, nothing will work unless you execute. Prioritize focus and simplify your plan so it can be explained to a six-year-old. The key takeaway from this talk is to ask the right questions to make sure that teams and management teams are having the right discussions so that you can execute accordingly.
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