Day two of #mtpcon Digital welcomed more incredible product speakers to our virtual stage. Our keynote speakers, Cennydd Bowles, Asha Haji, and Marty Cagan covered tech and the new normal, pivoting, and the greatest challenges of product management, while our session speakers delivered a range of thought-provoking discussions on OKRs, leadership, strategy and more. Let’s take a look at the highlights.
In our opening keynote, Cennydd Bowles challenged us to design and develop products ethically and abandon the Lean ideology that has bred what he described as an “overquantified” world-view. This view of the world “is a narrow blinkered view,” he said, “one that makes ethical mistakes more likely because ethical impacts are hard to measure.” Tracking the decline of the 2010 “tech utopia”, Cennydd described how consumers are hungry for new technologies but feel disempowered, urging us to take responsibility and embrace a broader social role as we continue to influence the future.
In our second keynote of the day, Asha Haji shared her experience of pivoting, including a recent pivot at Founders Academy where she’s the Co-Founder and COO. She talked through the many reasons why you might pivot, the steps needed to effectively decide what to pivot to, how to manage your pivot once it’s started and how to use the Pure Pivot Pyramid – a framework created by CEO of Bunch, Selcuk Atli, when he was at 500 Startups. Asha describes the five levels of the pyramid. At the bottom – customers, then Problem, Solution and Tech above with Growth completing the pyramid at the top. To use it, she said, you have to think about how and where you’re making your pivot. “Are you pivoting your customers or changing them? Are you pivoting the technology that you use? Are you presently pivoting the problem that you’re solving? And whenever you’re pivoting any of these areas, you have to recognise that everything above where you’re pivoting needs to be reconsidered.”
Closing the show, Marty Cagan, author of Inspired and Empowered, spoke about product leadership and how, put simply, it is hard. However, he said, “it’s not rocket science!”. If you want to, and you put in the effort, you can do it but, he explained, you need to be ready to put in the work because the difference between the best and the rest is increasing all the time. “Nobody is born knowing how to be a strong product manager,” he said, and, as we all know, “the practice is often very different from the theory.”
The Breakout Sessions
Amy Zima, the Principal Product Manager at Spotify aimed to demystify the process of creating a strategy by sharing lessons learned at Spotify. She began by stating that strategy is not the same thing as a roadmap. “It’s a framework you curate to help you make a meaningful plan,” and, she said, “it doesn’t have to be perfect”. Using an example from her time at Spotify Amy illustrated their approach to strategy development. The first step, she said, is to ask questions to understand your opportunity, and these can be simple – what problem are we trying to solve? Who are we building for? Etc. With the answers to these types of questions, you can start to build your strategy. “You’ll always have strategic choices to make that are informed by your vision, and it’s so much better to have a strategy than not have one.” Your strategy and vision, she concluded are informed by your plan and the plan is always obvious when your strategy is good. “Without that, you’re just making random choices.”
In his work as a Product Coach, Adrian Howard helps companies address problems where product work, UX work, and Agile delivery overlap. During his #mtpcon session, he drew on this experience to explain how to align product teams around research using Pace Layer Mapping. “Pace layers let us talk about the rate of change,” he said, because, as we all know, “something important now might not be relevant in a month’s time.” Adrian used the session to explain how this process can help teams not just to chase the short bets, and give due attention to the slower pace of big bet items, but also to create a connection between the long term stuff and the short term stuff.
Roman Pichler shared what leaders need to keep in mind when structuring and growing product teams. Top takeaways from this session: empower your people so they have holistic ownership of the product, create a shared understanding of what a product even is and organise around it, use the right scaling approach, and lastly allow product people to focus on their job.
In a panel session, Arne Kittler, VP Product at XING, Timm Richter, MD of NEO Culture, Megan Murphy, VP of Product Management at Hotjar, and Flavia Neves, VP of Product at FreeNow, dug deep into OKRs. Their discussion touched on their own experience of OKRs and also the results of a survey and report recently published by Mind the Product and NEO Culture. “An OKR process is good if it enables discussion and dialogue, such that you get to share in a common understanding of where you are heading, and what you think your best contribution to that success can be,” said Timm. But, as Arne explained, it seems our industry’s relationship with OKRs is “complicated”. The panel, therefore, aimed to share new perspectives to help people make the most of OKRs in their teams and organisations.
Job van der Voort, CEO of Remote and ex VP Product, GitLab, discussed how best to build products asynchronously with a distributed team. He explained how essential the written word is when working asynchronously and described how teams can achieve success by fostering a culture of communication – empowering individuals to do their best work with freedom, creativity and fair treatment (regardless of timezone). “Accept the fact that this is just the way it is, you can’t avoid timezones,” he said.
Sara Wood, CEO of Kaluza and ex EVP Product of Farfetch, explained how to use change to your advantage as you progress through your career in product. She explained how time and circumstance are the most important factors in any story – your team make-up, the market conditions – they will never be the same across any two points in time. This means that no secret trick will be the surefire formula for success. The world evolves, and how we evolve and adapt is what frames how we can succeed. “Every company is a tech company,” she said, and “those that have not figured that out are not going to survive very long. At the heart of any disruption is change.”
All Work and No Play…
No thanks, we like an afterparty and while we can’t throw our famous #mtpcon end of the show, in-person bash we’ve done the next best (virtual) thing! Our attendees switched between various social sessions including cocktail hour, a pub quiz, beer chat, cooking snacks (to go with those cocktails and beers!), a book club and more!
Thank you to everyone who joined for #mtpcon Autumn and to our wonderful crew and sponsors for all of their support. If you missed anything, fear not! As a Mind the Product member, you’ll be able to access all of the incredible keynote talk videos from Friday, November 20th on your membership dashboard. Not yet a member? It’s not too late. Join today! Got membership with your #mtpcon Digital ticket? Activate your account today – just grab your exclusive discount code and access link from any #mtpcon Digital event email!
Until next time folks, cheers from all of us!