Product management dysfunctions by Ben Foster "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs May 05 2022 False feature factory, ProductTank, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 640 Product Management 2.56

Product management dysfunctions by Ben Foster

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In this ProductTank London talk, Ben Foster, CPO at Whoop, explains some of the most common product management dysfunctions and how to solve them. His key points include:

  • Common product management dysfunctions
  • Why these dysfunctions exist
  • How do you create a winning product strategy

Watch the video to see his talk in full or read on for an overview of his key points.

Common product management dysfunctions

Some of the patterns Ben has discovered of the typical dysfunctions product managers face include:

The hamster wheel: Output over outcomes

The counting house: Focusing on own metrics and ignoring the customer’s metrics

The ivory tower: Asserting authority based on a product manager title but nothing more

The science lab: Optimising but unlikely to yield results

The business school: Analysis paralysis through end-model exercises

The bridge to nowhere: Ideal infrastructure for a future that never comes

The throne room: Decision making is left to the boss

Then there are his favourite dysfunctions:

The feature factory

Well known to many product managers, the feature factory ships features for the sake of shipping features. It leads to underwhelming results, an overcomplicated product, and more difficult customer onboarding.

The roller coaster

It involves plenty of pivots but ending right where you started. This leads to an impatient executive team, unrealistic expectations, and false negotiations galore.

The negotiating table

Here, you’re attempting to make everyone happy, but no one ever is. This results in too many ideas and too little capacity, unhappy stakeholders, and frustrations about the roadmap.

Why do these dysfunctions happen in the first place?

Dysfunctions are no-win situations. Unlike challenging problems that can be overcome, these are situations where you will lose no matter what moves you make.

It’s essential to prevent dysfunctions from happening in the first place. To do that, product managers need to understand why they happen.

Dysfunctions occur when there is a lack of product strategy, they fill the void. It’s hard for product managers to have time to work on product strategy when they’re busy keeping stakeholders at bay and shipping the next feature to fail faster and faster. But the best defence is a good offence – if you proactively set the direction for your product, you don’t have to play defence anymore. If you develop a strong product strategy to get everyone to buy in, then there’s no room for a void and for dysfunctions to take hold.

How do you create a winning product strategy?

There are two precursors to nailing your product strategy. The first is a customer outcome pyramid. The second is a customer journey vision.

Customer outcome pyramid

Start by breaking down your customer success metrics. These are what you’re trying to deliver for customers. The pyramid allows you to look at success from the customer’s vantage point.

Customer Journey Vision

This refers to what your customers care about and the things you’re trying to solve for them. Here you need to have a strong product vision that allows you, as product manager, to believe that you can make something truly transformative for the customer.

The product strategy is the path you intend to take and the series of milestones you will cross, to get you from where you are today to where you want to be.

The key takeaway from this talk is that having a product strategy stops dysfunction from taking hold.

Enjoy more ProductTank content

ProductTanks are informal meetups, created by Mind the Product, to bring local product people together and to enable speakers to share amazing product insights. Today we have ProductTanks in more than 200 cities across the globe and there’s probably one near you.

Learn more about ProductTank – find your local meetup, explore more ProductTank content, see the latest ProductTank news, and discover ways to get involved!

In this ProductTank London talk, Ben Foster, CPO at Whoop, explains some of the most common product management dysfunctions and how to solve them. His key points include:
  • Common product management dysfunctions
  • Why these dysfunctions exist
  • How do you create a winning product strategy
Watch the video to see his talk in full or read on for an overview of his key points.

Common product management dysfunctions

Some of the patterns Ben has discovered of the typical dysfunctions product managers face include: The hamster wheel: Output over outcomes The counting house: Focusing on own metrics and ignoring the customer’s metrics The ivory tower: Asserting authority based on a product manager title but nothing more The science lab: Optimising but unlikely to yield results The business school: Analysis paralysis through end-model exercises The bridge to nowhere: Ideal infrastructure for a future that never comes The throne room: Decision making is left to the boss Then there are his favourite dysfunctions:

The feature factory

Well known to many product managers, the feature factory ships features for the sake of shipping features. It leads to underwhelming results, an overcomplicated product, and more difficult customer onboarding.

The roller coaster

It involves plenty of pivots but ending right where you started. This leads to an impatient executive team, unrealistic expectations, and false negotiations galore.

The negotiating table

Here, you’re attempting to make everyone happy, but no one ever is. This results in too many ideas and too little capacity, unhappy stakeholders, and frustrations about the roadmap.

Why do these dysfunctions happen in the first place?

Dysfunctions are no-win situations. Unlike challenging problems that can be overcome, these are situations where you will lose no matter what moves you make. It’s essential to prevent dysfunctions from happening in the first place. To do that, product managers need to understand why they happen. Dysfunctions occur when there is a lack of product strategy, they fill the void. It’s hard for product managers to have time to work on product strategy when they’re busy keeping stakeholders at bay and shipping the next feature to fail faster and faster. But the best defence is a good offence - if you proactively set the direction for your product, you don’t have to play defence anymore. If you develop a strong product strategy to get everyone to buy in, then there’s no room for a void and for dysfunctions to take hold.

How do you create a winning product strategy?

There are two precursors to nailing your product strategy. The first is a customer outcome pyramid. The second is a customer journey vision.

Customer outcome pyramid

Start by breaking down your customer success metrics. These are what you’re trying to deliver for customers. The pyramid allows you to look at success from the customer’s vantage point.

Customer Journey Vision

This refers to what your customers care about and the things you’re trying to solve for them. Here you need to have a strong product vision that allows you, as product manager, to believe that you can make something truly transformative for the customer. The product strategy is the path you intend to take and the series of milestones you will cross, to get you from where you are today to where you want to be. The key takeaway from this talk is that having a product strategy stops dysfunction from taking hold.

Enjoy more ProductTank content

ProductTanks are informal meetups, created by Mind the Product, to bring local product people together and to enable speakers to share amazing product insights. Today we have ProductTanks in more than 200 cities across the globe and there’s probably one near you. Learn more about ProductTank – find your local meetup, explore more ProductTank content, see the latest ProductTank news, and discover ways to get involved!

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