Archive for the ‘Product Management’ Category

After growing up using the LeSS framework, I’ve been looking forward to learning about #SAFe in detail and comparing it to some of the myths associated with it.

Myth busters of SAFe:
1. Waterfall milestones ❌️ Products governed by self-managing mission-focused agile teams; objective measures and milestones based on working solutions, delivering early and incrementally ✔️
2. People organised in functional silos and temporary project teams ❌️ People organised in value streams/agile teams; continuous value flow ✔️
3. Overly detailed business cases based on speculative ROI ❌️ Lean business cases with MVP, business outcome hypothesis, Agile forecasting and estimating ✔️
4. Doesn’t support Lean Startup principles/innovation ❌️ SAFe Lean Startup Cycle to support high levels of uncertainty using the build-measure-learn Lean startup cycle ✔️
5. It’s not Agile ❌️ Thinking Lean and embracing agility combine to make up a new management approach with a Lean-Agile mindset which aligns with the values and principles in the Agile manifesto ✔️
6. It doesn’t have any compelling principles ❌️ SAFe is based on a set of Lean-Agile principles ✔️:

1. Take an economic view; deliver early and often
2. Apply systems thinking
3. Assume variability; preserve options
4. Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles
5. Base milestones on objective evaluation of working systems
6. Visualise and limit WIP, reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths
7. Apply cadence; synchronise with cross-domain planning
8. Unlock the motivation of knowledge workers
9. Decentralise decision-making
10. Organise around value

Case studies show, that many enterprises – large and small – are getting extraordinary business results from adopting SAFe eg.
• 10-50% happier, more motivated employees
• 30-75% faster time-to-market

I particularly enjoyed reading about how important a continuous learning culture is to SAFe:

“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work – brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

“Our mindsets are the foundation for achieving success and happiness in life. With the right mindset, anything is possible.”

“Leadership is responsible for driving change proactively by ‘taking a stand’ for a better future state.”

I’d definitely recommend this book, especially for those who want to get an overview of where the Product Manager/PO split comes from.

This is the most comprehensive book I’ve read on lean product development.

The thing I loved most about this read by Dan Olsen is how the techniques he exposes are relevant across the whole product life cycle, so for a new product entering a new market or an enterprise level business improving a mature product in a competitive market, making it applicable to use some of the techniques for identifying/solving problems on existing products.

The book is focused around a framework called The Product-Market Fit Pyramid and The Lean Product Process which consists of six steps:

1. Determine your target audience
2. Identify underserved customer needs
3. Define your value proposition
4. Specify your minimum viable product (MVP) feature set
5. Create your MVP prototype
6. Test your MVP with customers

The writing style makes it easy to digest and therefore easy to run gap analysis on your current ways of working to spot any improvement areas.

A recommended read for anyone interested in customer development, lean UX, design thinking, product management, user experience design, agile development, lean startup, or analytics.

Marty Cagan, Partner at Silicon Valley Group gave a “Straight Talk on Product Ops” at the Lean Product Meetup in January followed by a fireside chat and Q&A.

Over 303 other product folk attended the live session wanting to hear from Marty about product ops.

Notes from the session:

  • So many companies define Product Ops differently
  • Some of the most toxic ones are taking off in some companies, important to raise the impacts so then it’s a conscious decision
  • “Product Ops operates differently at every company” – Product School, this statement is not that helpful, it’s different in every company, but some companies have similarities
  • We can’t even agree to decide what the common role of Product Manager is in the industry, so not surprised we’re in this situation with Product Ops
  • Like Dev Ops, Design Ops, people have thought cool we’re going to provide product managers with real tools to help Product get products into production quicker

More than 50 companies got in touch with their definition of how they use product ops:

  1. The Reincarnated PMO Model – product ops facilitate planning activities, they gatekeep all of the product requests – most damaging, not all that common
  2. The Two-in-a-Box PM Model – handles the day to day tasks involved with development – it’s like getting product executives to do the day to day tasks – 2nd most serious problem, splitting the product manager role from connecting customers, other areas of the business and engineers, last thing you want to do is cut that person in half, innovation goes right down, slicing the job in half is disempowered, more damaging than helpful
  3. The Delegated Product Leader Model – Product Ops ensures our PM’s learn the necessary skills and techniques needed to connect the dots between the activities of the various product teams – like a personal coach to the product managers, this is something the VP of product (head of product) should do 1:1 coaching from an experienced product leader
  4. The Production Operations Rebranding Model – Product Ops job starts when the product /feature launches making sure that things run smoothly, they’re helping more around customer service, more like customer success ops, not really focused on product, this definition isn’t a problem
  5. The Product Marketing Manager Rebranding Model – Product Ops covers two main activities: synthesizing ongoing customer feedback from sales, services and support (GTM strategy incl. beta and early release programs). This is due to politics if product marketing doesn’t have headcount but needs all this done. This method is a good thing and feels it is a good modern definition of Product Ops.
  6. The Force Multiplier Model – best one, really empowering product teams with Qual & Quant insights, product tools eg. roadmaping and best practices, would be better moved to this new Product ops team than buried in UX team – the problem is that companies are staffing this role definition with junior people, should be more like principle product manager level. So the structure should be:

CPO:

  • Product Management
  • Product Design
  • Product Ops – to empower product teams with Qual & Quant insights, tools and best practices

Nothing new in Product Ops from the different definitions, whilst The Force Multiplier Model isn’t new it’s well packaged and it came from Melissa from Escape the Build Trap. Solves the issue where UX have insights that no one does anything about. Puts the qual/quant insights squarely in product across all product managers – a more visible place where it has real value.

The two dangerous forces behind so many weak organizations:

  1. Scaling via Process rather than Leaders through people – SAFe is a good example of this
  2. Splitting the Product Manager Job – see 2nd definition above as an example, the product manager should focus on value and viability for the customer and not get involved in QA, design etc, there are people to handle this and the business should resource appropriately

Absolutely loved this read. In essence, Marty Cagan talks about the value of empowering product teams (several engineers, product manager, product designer) to serve customers with products that customers love, yet work for the business (by collaborating with stakeholders to come up with solutions that work). I particularly loved the fact that the majority of the book focused on coaching.

“Empowered product teams are all about giving teams hard problems to solve, and then giving them the space to solve them.”

“..this is really what I see in so many of the companies I visit. They have product teams that are more accurately feature teams, and they’re slaving away-pounding out features all day-but rarely getting closer to their desired outcomes.”

“Regardless of the reason for reviewing your topology, you should optimize for the empowerment of the teams by focusing on the dimensions of ownership, autonomy, and alignment.”

“Your highest-order contribution and responsibility as product manager is to make sure that what engineers are asked to build will be worth building. That it will deliver the necessary results.”

“Coaching is no longer a speciality; you cannot be a good manager without being a good coach.” – Bill Campbell

“Moving the product teams from the subservient feature team model to the collaborative empowered product team model begins with trust”

The majority of modern enterprise businesses now have a classic Scrum team setup (engineers and PO), but still wonder how they can respond to customer feedback quicker/more frequently, get ahead in the market, and innovate whilst protecting/growing revenue.

If you’re wondering this or generally interested in Agile, this book by Darrell Rigby is for you and will give you a very well balanced overview of what those next steps look like to unlock the benefits of Agile across the business, and introduces you to the concept of an Agile enterprise which allows bureaucracy and innovation efforts to coexist without the need for a big-bang approach.

An Agile enterprise involves creating Agile principles at every level starting from the top with an Agile leadership team, rather than just having an Agile tech team and the rest of the business bureaucratic. As a result, Agile Leadership is a big focus of the book and it dives into some starting points for principles:

– Employees learn by doing things themselves
– Trust is built over time
– Doing what only you can do makes everyone better off
– Customers are the best judges of what they want

To represent what a balanced approach could look like there’s a visual diagram showing an example of the agile enterprise operating model, which is fully customisable and “when you do it well, you create mission-inspired teams that work together across the organisation, both the run-the-business and the change-the-business elements”.

There’s plenty of inspiring success stories from Bosch, Amazon, Spotify and RBS too.

“More agile is not always better agile. There is an optimal range of agility for every business and for every activity within a business.”

“Genuine customer obsession sets a strong foundation for agility.”

View the book on Amazon here.

Enjoyed this read by Scott Belsky where he uncovers a pragmatic set of techniques to help organise, prioritise and execute actions turning high aspirational goals into reality, gives tips on collaborating with other people to help accelerate progress, and provides good insight into effective leadership and self-leadership methods.

“Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration”

“To push your ideas to fruition, you must develop the capacity to endure, and even thrive, as you traverse the project plateau.”

“Making ideas happen boils down to self-discipline and the ways in which you take action.”

“Even when the next step is unclear, the best way to figure it out is to take some incremental action. Constant motion is the key to execution.”

“Nothing will assist your ideas more than a team of people who possess real initiative.”

A practical short read on how to properly talk to customers and learn from them by Rob Fitz.

Whilst the book focuses on validating new product/business ideas, many principles Rob talks about still apply to existing products, enabling you to understand how and why customers are using the product in the way they are and how they feel about the product vs. competitors – building up qualitative data about the UX.

Even though the book was published 8 years ago, it’s still relevant and I loved how the book focuses on having an informal chat with customers about their feelings and why first, before diving into getting feedback on solutions which you’d do in future conversations – how can you satisfy customers if you don’t understand them first. Also, with remote customer interview tools now available like User Zoom, Lookback and User Testing, it makes it easier more than ever to talk to customers weekly.

The Mom Test:

1. Talk about their life (or how/why they use the product in the way they do) instead of your idea
2. Ask about specifics in the past instead of generics or opinions about the future
3. Talk less and listen more

It’s called The Mom Test because it leads to questions that even your parents can’t lie to you about.

Link here to the book on Amazon.

It’s also a great companion to Lean Customer Development by Cindy Alvarez.

Most books touch the surface of what it takes to achieve high aspirational goals, but The Messy Middle by Scott Belsky gives a comprehensive insight into what it really takes to reach them and long-term success, covering the highs and lows of the journey built on seven years’ of research.

You read in books and the news new venture kickoffs with inspiring missions and the big celebratory achievements giving a sense it’s quick and easy to reach them, whether it’s funding, IPO, market-leader status, job role…when in reality it’s not and instead takes relentless patience, grit and empathy to achieve long-term success which is the focus throughout the book.

The book is structured well keeping to around two pages on each subject, where Scott gets right to the point and focuses on modern approaches to help build and optimise your team and improve yourself.

“Milestones that are directly correlated with progress are more effective motivators than anything else.”

“The only ‘sustainable competitive advantage’ in business is self-awareness.”

“Don’t start to question your gut solely because it is different. Nothing should resonate more loudly than your own intuition. The truly differentiating factors of your project are the ones most likely to be different, misunderstood, or underestimated by everyone else.”

“Every leader needs to come up for air now and then. By temporarily disconnecting from your journey, you’re able to take perspective of all the moving parts.” – very relevant as I read this on holiday.

A fantastic read which I’d recommend to anyone struggling to progress towards their missions, looking to make sense of their experiences or generally interested in learning from Scott’s journey and wisdom.

Written in the same novel thriller style as The Phoenix Project, Gene Kim touches on every element you need to transform a slow-moving monolithic digital setup to a more modern Agile and Lean operation which allows you to validate ideas and solve problems at speed, getting ahead in the market.

I found the original Phoenix book gripping and a fun read as I’ve not experienced a manufacturing plant environment before, but I found the Unicorn Project more predictable as I was reading it, but I guess that’s due to going through various Agile and DevOps transformations over the past few years…

…saying that, it was still a pleasure to read the heroics of Maxine, Kurt and Brent with their relentless perseverance and motivation to continually improve and learn whilst getting ideas to customers, hearing about the fruits of the impacts they were making, and the value that a dedicated and empowered team can have, through a different lens.

“A healthy software system is one that you can change at the speed you need, where people can contribute easily, without jumping through hoops.”

“Because the distance from where decisions are made and where work is performed keeps growing, the quality of our outcomes diminish.”

“It’s been true for hundreds of years and probably thousands more: employee engagement and customer satisfaction are the only things that matter. If we do that right, and manage cash effectively, every other financial target will take care of itself.” Amen!

Another fantastic book by Gene which I’d recommend for anyone experiencing significant delays in the value stream or generally interested in DevOps.

“85% of job success comes from well-developed people skills.”

“70% of team issues are caused by people skills deficiencies.”

It’s becoming increasingly more common for Product Management and therefore product managers, who are generalists, to sit at the centre of the business surrounded by specialists, making collaboration with everyone in your team and stakeholders across the business a fundamental part of the job in order to manage the product and product business effectively. How you handle these relationships will contribute significantly to the success of the product and your role as a product manager.

Human Powered by Trenton Moss will give you a better understanding of yourself, increase your empathy to help forge better relationships and provide you with the tools you need to inspire those around you, setting you and your product up for success.

Throughout the book, there are short realistic stories with characters as examples to explain situations and resolutions making them easy to digest and relate to.

They don’t teach you how to handle conflict at school, but Trenton does a great job of setting out a framework to help you resolve conflict. The book covers 5 other key areas, with a framework for each including:

1. Conflict resolution
2. Strong relationships
3. Leading and influencing
4. Facilitation
5. Storytelling
6. Outbound comms

I’d recommend this book for all product directors and product managers/owners.

EQ is the new IQ!

You can order the book here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1781336067/ref=cm_sw_r_apan_glt_fabc_4ZFMT00SGSVD473E0K56

This is the best book I’ve read on DevOps and it follows on nicely from Gene Kim’s other book The Phoenix Project.

It’s quite easy to think that DevOps practices are just something that dev teams deal with and the value is simply just an increase in throughput, but the book provides clarity on the colossal value that adopting a DevOps culture and the principles can have on teams, the business, and customers.

Throughout the book, Gene echoes the importance of having the whole product team (product manager, designer and several engineers)) involved in the transformation, as well as focusing on outcomes, and to achieve outcomes you need to collect data and learn through experimentation which is covered in the book too.

Gene gives good advice that it’s important to avoid funding projects and instead you should fund services and products: “A way to enable high-performing outcomes is to create stable service teams with ongoing funding to execute their own strategy and road map of initiatives”.

This is the most comprehensive and practical DevOps guide out there and the layout makes the content easy to digest. The book covers:

– History leading up to DevOps, and Lean thinking
– Agile, and continuous delivery
– Value streams
– How to design your organisation and architecture
– Integrating security, change management, and compliance

The principles and tech practices of:
1. Flow
2. Feedback
3. Continual Learning and Experimentation

“Our goal is to enable market-oriented outcomes where many small teams can quickly and independently deliver value to the customer”

Previously ‘Product Management’ as a function has been part of the tech or marketing department and it’s still a relatively new concept to have Product Management as a separate department in an organisation.

As a result, there are many common misconceptions that the main function of Product Management and the Product Manager/Owner is to define features themselves and work with tech to deliver them, making it somewhat frustrating when marketing, insights, commercial team or any other department outside of product make a request which takes up tech effort which could have otherwise been spent on pushing your own changes.

So if this is a misconception, what is the role of Product Management in the wider organisation?

Product Management as a function/department sits in the middle of the organisation where the Product Manager is a generalist who collaborates with the specialists across the business to help manage the product business and develop the product, which includes working with:

  • Technology / DevOps and Designers/UX to learn through experimentation and reach outcomes early and often by developing the product continuously
  • Marketing to grow the product
  • Customer support to help them provide an A* customer service
  • Legal / compliance team to ensure the product is compliant
  • PMO / Project Managers to support them on cross-cutting high-value initiatives
  • Commercial / Bus Dev to take advantage of opportunities
  • Data / Insights team to gain access to qual/quant data, learn and understand how you can use data better to deliver more effective outcomes
  • The C-suite especially CEO to understand the business goals and ensure your product goals aligns with them
  • Yourself, the market and customers to analyse qual/quant data to find out what problems there could be to solve

As a Product Manager, you may feel overwhelmed by a sudden bombardment of requests coming from certain departments all of a sudden for example marketing requests, and a positive way of looking at this is that these inputs are essentially all just product ideas and part of qual/quant data analysis to help improve the product/product business which as a Product Manager you need to manage.

You may also find that you are spending the majority of tech resources on marketing requests for months, which is absolutely fine, if this is the highest priority work – the importance of growing the product business should not be underestimated.

With lots of valuable input incoming at a frequent rate, as a Product Manager, it means that you need to be organised, proactive and utilise your emotional intelligence to ensure you get the most out of everyone and that you handle situations rationally. What will help you is:

  • Accepting and believing that you are one team working together to improve the product/product business
  • Having a tidy data-driven prioritised product backlog which anyone can access
    • This will make it easier to say why someone can’t have what they want now!
  • Presenting your product roadmap, successes and what’s up next to key stakeholders on a regular heartbeat, but also ensuring that stakeholders have access to real-time updates of the product roadmap. Aha.io is a great tool for this
  • Know your customers, market, product strategy, backlog and data, so you can be assertive and lean into tense situations – Managing Product = Managing Tension is a great book to help give you confidence to lean into tension

A Product Manager is accountable for the success of their product and therefore also needs to manage the product business, not just develop a product.

Steven Haines is a globally recognised expert in Product Management who has done incredible work professionalising Product Management. I’d recommend reading the below books of his:

As Haines says “The system of product management touches and influences all the organic supporting structures-all the business functions. Think of the human body; product management is in the circulatory system, the neural network, and, of course, the command and control center (the brain).”

A PRD (Product Requirement Document) helps a product manager write a story on how to get from problem -> solution methodically. Often problems can be so big, complex and have ambiguity that it’s hard to know where to start, so a PRD will help you rationally approach the problem and get the support you need to reach an efficient and effective outcome.

It’s important to point out that it’s not necessary to:

  1. Use a PRD for every single problem/idea, normally only for epics/initiatives/features/medium or large-sized items.
  2. Complete the whole document, only fill out bits you need, you may find that you only complete the problem/value and hypothesis parts.
  3. Work on it in a silo. You will achieve a more efficient and effective outcome if you get the rest of the product team (designer and engineers) and stakeholders involved at the beginning in a workshop format so that you can work as one team across the discovery phase.

A good place to create a PRD is in Confluence, so it’s easily accessible across the business allowing colleagues to easily comment remotely. I’ve also used Google Docs previously and copied some of the information into the epic of JIRAs to reinforce the problem we are looking to solve/projected value we are looking to get after to the development team.

The first few PRDs you write you might find it quite slow whilst you work out how to get hold of the qual/quant data, but you soon pick up speed as you become familiar with the key elements of discovery and have the data already accessible at your fingertips.

It would also be helpful for new starters if you add a completed example of a PRD to the top of the PRD template which will help add some context for them. Some PRDs can be quite lengthy if the problem is big, complex and has a lot of ambiguity, so it’s worth adding a table of contents at the top making it easy to navigate through the document.


Including a list of people who are involved:

RoleContact
Product Manager. <tag person/<name>
UX/Design<tag person/<name>
Technical<tag people/<names>
Stakeholders<tag people/<names>
Jira/Design/Helpful Links <tag person/<name>

Problem/Value/Idea

A description of the problem or idea along with projected value if you have this. This is a good chance to spend quality time digging into the problem to build up a business case using qual/quant data.

  • Idea: Supporting Dark Mode in our apps…
  • Problem: Our iOS app is currently a 3* rating and Android app 2*, with the top problems being…
  • Problem: 70% of our customer support queries relate to promotions which cost us £x / month
  • Problem: Our day 1 churn rate is higher than we expect…
  • Problem: We currently release new software iterations monthly, rather than daily…
  • Problem: In the latest customer survey, 10% of respondents report the product being slow and unstable…
  • Problem: 20% of customers don’t feel rewarded for their loyalty
  • Problem: Our total marketing communication engagements have gone down since complying with the new GDPR regulations, making it harder to talk to customers frequently
  • Projected Value: Saving customer support costs by £
  • Projected Value: App rating > 4* resulting in healthier ASO and raking and therefore an increase in organic installs creating 20 new customers a day
  • Projected Value: Day 1 churn rate under 20% resulting in £xx revenue increase
  • Projected Value: New customer conversion rate > 30% resulting in £xx revenue increase

Hypothesis

List out one or more hypotheses you come up with to test out. This is a great opportunity to collaborate with the whole product team (designer and engineers) and stakeholders, not only to compile the list of experiments but also what data you need to learn and what tools you might need to execute the experiments.

  • Providing existing customers with the ability to refer their friends will increase new customers incremental by 10% worth an extra £xx revenue increase
  • Having a stepped registration form will increase the registration rate by 10%
  • Solving all customer queries in the app store and responding to every app store review within 3 hours will increase customer satisfaction and therefore our app store rating, which will in turn help ASO and our app store ranking

KPIs

  • Volume of engagements with feature x
  • Conversation rate
  • ARPU
  • CPA
  • Retention rate
  • Day 1 churn rate
  • LTV
  • Registration rate
  • Crash levels
  • Deposit elapsed time
  • Session time
  • Login elapsed time

Market Analysis

If you have competitors who have solved the problem already, this is a good place to document the UX. Also, detail your target personas and other details about the market which will give you a better idea of who the product iteration is for.


Customer Research / Validation

Detail any qual/quant data you have gathered relating to the problem/idea eg. customer interviews, financial/engagement data, trends, and any historical experiment results which are relevant.


Constraints

  • Regulatory live date of x
  • Marketing tv campaigns going live x
  • Low front-end development capacity
  • Utilising platform/tool x
  • Time to market
  • Dependencies on teams x

High-Level Requirements / Use Cases

This shouldn’t be at user story level (detailed spec), but instead, just an idea of customer flows/use cases and considerations covering:

  • Functional
  • Non-functional (since the rise of DevOps, this gets covered as BAU/as part of development in most cases)
  • Customer support
  • Marketing
  • Tracking

Flow

Embed a mock-up, flow, UX or prototype.


Risks

  • Lots of ambiguity, so it could take a while to reach the desired outcome
  • Other higher priority work could mean that we don’t have the tech capacity to get the solution to market in time to reach the optimal outcome
  • The problem may not be such a big problem when we go to market
  • We may only solve part of the problem because of x
  • It could take more than 3 months before we learn because of x

Technical Considerations

  • We have plans to replace the existing platform in the next 12 months.
  • We need to conduct an RFP on tooling
  • This is the first time we are conducting experiments, so we need to considering process and tooling

Go-to-market Strategy

This is where you can detail the elements you need to consider/action to have a successful go-live covering:

  • What product support marketing require to market the product iteration effectively
    • Special promotions
    • Signposting across the product
    • Training, user guides
  • Customer support training
  • Release preparation to coordinate with any time-sensitive fixed timeframe marketing campaign especially TV ads
    • Day 1 plan
    • Feature switch process
  • Regulatory approval
  • Production access for end-users

Q&A

Adding a question and answers section at the bottom allowing you to add notes from meetings and tag anyone responsible for answering the question.

QuestionsAnswers

Loved reading this book by Eliyahu Goldratt as it’s written as a novel in a fast-paced thriller style, so once you start reading it it’s hard to put down.

Although it tells a heroic story of a manufacturing plant being saved from closure, the improvements closely resemble modern software development techniques – especially Kanban, as it touches on managing constraints, throughput optimisation, continuous improvement, less (smaller batch sizes) but more frequent, prioritisation, waste, the right KPIs (Goal), capacity, effort, WIP, value, estimation, and teamwork.

Throughout the book, rather than the external consultant (Jonah) just telling the plant manager (Alex) how to solve all of the problems they were facing at each stage of their continuous improvement journey to save the plant, Jonah coached Alex by asking him questions instead and getting him to find the answers out for himself, which sets Alex up for success in the future…reminded me of The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stainer.

If you liked The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim you’ll love this book as it’s written in a similar style, and comes with all of the drama of balancing family life with a high demanding job.

If you’re an empowered Product Manager / Product Owner who has the authority to shape the strategy of your product and need insight into effective product strategy/roadmap practices and frameworks, this book by Roman Pichler is for you.

The book is well balanced giving you guidance on when and when not to use particular practices, for example when a product is yet to be validated in the market and therefore has not reached product-market fit, you shouldn’t spend your time making up a roadmap when you should be spending time experimenting and talking to target customers.

However when you’re scaling or have a mature product then product roadmaps would have many benefits which are explained well and are very accurate, such as collaboration, alignment and generally showing how you plan to progress towards your product vision.

I particularly liked The Strategy Canvas which looks like a great tool for competitor gap analysis.

The practices and frameworks are explained in enough detail that even if you’re not empowered to shape the strategy of your product, you could still find this book beneficial by understanding the tools and proactively having a stab at using them for your product.

Pichler leaves no stone unturned as he covers every aspect of product strategy from idea to execution, which ultimately enables product management functions to operate effectively.

Image source here.

After 17 years of researching leaders around the world, Jo Owen shares the secret sauce to what a successful mindset looks like at different leadership levels and how you can unleash it.

Seven mindsets that consistently came out of the research which the book focuses on:

1. High aspirations
2. Courage
3. Resilience
4. Positive
5. Accountable
6. Collaborative
7. Growth

This is the best book I’ve read on management and leadership as it compares the different mindsets you need across each leadership level, allowing you to build a crystal clear picture of what mindset you need to focus on to get to the next level of your leadership journey.

Owen includes a multitude of tables, with the most impactful showing how the nature of leadership and management changes at each stage of a career, along with what mindset you need at each stage and details of behaviours/expectations. This makes it easy to find the gaps allowing you to make an immediate impact on your mindset.

The book is packed with advice on how to get the most out of yourself and your team along with some common pitfalls for example:

• High aspirations: should not be about self – focus on the mission and gain buy-in from the team.
• The prison of performance: focus on learning, not just achievements.
• Positive thinking: ensure it doesn’t crowd out reality.
• Leadership: it’s not about authority, power or position, but taking people where they wouldn’t have got by themselves.

“High aspirations will accelerate your career: you will succeed fast or fail fast. More likely, you will fail several times, learn from your setbacks and then succeed to a greater extent than anyone thought possible.”

To paraphrase Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change.”

This book will help you make sense out of the nonsense you might experience, and give you insight that will help you to accelerate your learning and career.

“The most important mindset for a successful career is learning and growth. If you stay still, you will fail.”

Is there a way to get value into customers’ hands early and often?

Is there a way to deliver high-quality software on time, every time?

Is there a way to innovate at scale as the company grows?

Absolutely yes to all of these questions and Roman Pichler explains how this is possible in under 120 pages in this book.

Whilst there has been a huge uptake in businesses adopting Scrum – the most popular Agile framework over the past decade, some are still asking these questions after falling into various pitfalls, where Pichler addresses them all eloquently in his book, for example:

• Having too many handoffs of requirements/solutions/decisions which disempower the Scrum team
• The product owner only focusing on tactical work
• Not coaching product owners to set them and the Scrum team up for success
• Focusing on outputs over outcomes

If you are currently playing the product owner role, can relate to any of the pitfalls above and would like a mentor to help fill in your knowledge gap, DM me and we can solve it together whether it’s mock customer interviews, working with qual/quant data, time management, roadmapping, prioritisation, how to define a vision, missions, objectives and strategies for a product or any challenges you’re facing.

This book is an essential read for CPOs who are still struggling to experience the benefits of Agile, as well as anyone who’s playing the product owner role.

Before reading this book I’d read a few snippets in other books around Toyota’s Lean way of working, but this book tells a comprehensive story not only about the success behind Toyota’s legendary customer-centric product development techniques along with market performance data to back it up, but it was also fascinating to get insight into how the business got out of its comfort zone to innovate effectively with the Lexus and Prius.

If you’re an advocate for an empowered and learning culture, you’ll love this book as it’s packed with inspiring examples of how their success started with a healthy culture and a long-term philosophy.

This book gives insight into how Toyota creates an ideal environment for implementing Lean techniques and tools by:

  • Fostering an atmosphere of continuous improvement and learning
  • Satisfying customers (and eliminating waste at the same time)
  • Getting quality right the first time
  • Coaching leaders from within rather than recruiting them from the outside
  • Teaching all employees to become problem solvers
  • Growing together with suppliers and partners for mutual benefit

I’ve put some product principles together to help with alignment and decision-making which might inspire you when setting yours:

  1. We listen to our customers daily, have empathy for them and act on key insights
  2. We understand the market and our customers’ needs
  3. We work with the rest of the business together to solve the highest priority problems and opportunities in a lean way
  4. We build quality products and features that customers love; recognising that delivering customer satisfaction will grow the business
  5. We have clear product ownership where we are empowered to deliver excellence aligned to the business goals
  6. We trust by giving autonomy at every level across the product delivery lifecycle
  7. We spend time celebrating successes and continuously learn
  8. We acknowledge that there is no bad question or wrong answer and have an inclusive mindset
  9. We see mistakes and failures as a learning experience
  10. We have a strong product organisation, which enables us to achieve our ambitions